Tuesday, January 10, 2017

1903-1975: Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth was among the first artists in England to create abstract sculptures, carving original forms into different varieties of stone. She was a leading figure in the international art scene throughout a career spanning the 1930s through the 1960s and early 1970s.

Background: Barbara was born in Wakefield, in Great Britain. Her father was a civil engineer with the County Council.

Training: Barbara attended a Girls' High school, where she excelled in music.

She won a scholarship to Leeds School of Art in 1920. While at the Leeds School of Art, Barbara began a lifelong friendship with fellow student Henry Moore, who also became an internationally renowned sculptor.

A year later, she won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London; she was awarded a diploma in 1924.

While on a postgraduate fellowship in Italy, Hepworth learned to carve marble with master stone carvers.

Private life: While in Italy, Barbara met British sculptor John Skeaping and traveled with him to Siena and Rome. They were married in Florence, in 1925. In 1929, Barbara gave birth to their son Paul in London. In 1931, Barbara and Paul divorced.

Ben Nicholson

In 1933, Barbara married the English avant-garde painter Ben Nicholson, with whom she lived and worked for the next two decades.

In 1934, Barbara and Ben had triplets. Barbara's son Paul from her previous marriage would have been about 5 years old. That means Barbara was raising children while she was making sculpture through the 1930s, when she was in her 30s.

In 1939, when WWII broke out, Barbara and Ben moved their family to St. Ives, on the far southeast coast of England. After the war, they became the hub for the next generation of artists in that area. Barbara lived in St. Ives for the rest of her life.

In 1951, Barbara and Ben divorced.

In 1953, Barbara's eldest son was killed in a plane crash while serving in the Royal Air Force in Thailand.

In the 1960s, Barbara's health began to break down, curtailing her work.

In 1975, Barbara died in a fire at her studio at the age of 72.

Barbara Hepworth in 1963
Career: After spending a couple of years in Italy, Barbara returned to London in 1926 to begin her career. She became one of a group of avant-garde sculptors committed to exploring abstraction in sculpture. Though her earliest works featured simplified, naturalistic forms, by the early 1930s, Hepworth was creating purely abstract work.

Early in her career, Barbara innovated an approach known as direct carving; instead of modeling a maquette from clay, and copying that in stone, Barbara attacked the stone directly, and let its qualities guide her search for form. Over the years, Barbara also worked in wood, and in the 1950s she began using bronze, which has the advantage that copies can be made. She sometimes incorporated strings, wires, and colored paint into her sculptures.

The peak of Barbara's productivity and popularity was in the 1950s. In the 1960s, her health began to fail, and she worked on smaller pieces.

Our photos of Barbara's work:

Pendour, 1948
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2006

Pastorale, 1953
Kröller-Müller / Jan's photo, 2015

Torso I (Ulysses), 1958
Hirshhorn / Jan's photo, 2010

Talisman, 1959
Wadsworth Atheneum / Jan's photo, 2013

Figure for Landscape, 1960
Getty / Jan's photo, 2014

Figure for Landscape, 1960
Dallas / Jan's photo, 2012

Squares with Two Circles, 1963
Nasher / Jan's photo, 2012

Sea Form (Atlantic), 1964
Dallas / Jan's photo, 2012

Opposite side of Sea Form (Atlantic), 1964
Dallas / Jan's photo, 2012

Contrapuntal Forms (Mycenae), 1965
Dallas / Jan's photo

Dual Form, 1965
Kröller-Müller / one of 7 casts
Photo by Dan L. Smith, 2015

Dual Form, 1965
Portland, OR / Jan's photo, 2017
One of seven casts.

Squares with two circles, 1963-1964
Photo by Dan L. Smith

Spring 1966, 1966
LACMA / Jan's photo, 2015

Oval Form with Strings and Color, 1966
Metropolitan / Jan's photo, 2012

Four-Square (Walk-Through), 1966
Norton Simon / Jan's photo, 2015

Two Figures, 1968
Fred Jones Jr. / Jan's photo, 2010

Makutu, 1969
High / Jan's photo, 2010

Summer Dance, 1971
Meier / Jan's photo, 2013

Assembly of Sea Forms, 1972
Norton Simon / Jan's photo, 2015