BARBARA HEPWORTH: THE SCULPTOR OF TACTILE ABSTRACTION

Image Courtesy: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/arts/visualarts/article4163562.ece

Shifting three dimensional art works into greater abstraction and developing complex sculptural vocabularies and ideas, the English artist and sculptor, Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth was one of the few female artists to achieve international prominence. An epitome of modern sculpture, Barbara Hepworth was born on  January 10, 1903, in Wakefield, West Riding of Yorkshire.

The eldest daughter of a civil engineer, Herbert Hepworth, Barbara attended the Wakefield Girls' High School and won a scholarship to study at Leeds School of Arts in 1920. There she befriended with Henry Moore and went to study at the Royal College of Arts in London, where they took occasional trips to Paris. In 1923, Hepworth graduated with a diploma and was a runner-up for the Prix de Rome in 1924. Having awarded a West Riding Scholarship in 1924, Hepworth travelled to Florence, Italy, and studied early Renaissance art.

In 1925, Hepworth married sculptor John Skeaping, and moved to Rome where she learned to carve marble under the tutelage of Giovanni Ardini. The couple returned to London in 1926 and Hepworth began exhibiting her work at her own studio. In 1929, her first son Paul was born.

Hepworth met the abstract painter Ben Nicholson in 1931 and separated from her husband. Strongly influenced by Nicholson's abstraction, Hepworth eschewed traditional forms and began evolving almost entirely abstract and non-representational forms. In 1933-34, Hepworth was a part of Paris based exhibition group “Abstract Creation” and extensively exhibited with various abstractionist groups and came into contact with Picasso, Miro, Mondrian in this period.

In 1939, Hepworth moved to St Ives, Cornwell, where her abstract work shifted to include influences of natural shapes and landscapes. In 1949, she bought Trewyn Studio in St Ives and lived there for the rest of her life. Hepworth showed her work at the Venice Biennale in 1950 and become a part of the festival of Britain in 1951. Resuming a set back after the death of his son, Hepworth began to work on large scale in bronze and other metals, taking inspiration from her travel to Greece.

Hepworth was awarded Grand Prix at the 1959 Sāo Paolo Bienal. She was appointed CBE in 1958 and DBE in 1965. In 1973, Hepworth was elected an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts And Letters. Her studio and home in St Ives became the Barbara Hepworth Museum and the Hepworth Wakefield museum opened in her hometown of Wakefield in 2011.

At the age of 72, Hepworth died in an accidental fire at Trewyn Studio on 20 May, 1975.


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