Hepworth, Barbara

Hepworth, Barbara
   b. 1903, Wakefield; d. 1975, St Ives
   Barbara Hepworth studied with Henry Moore at Leeds School of Art and later at the Royal College of Art in London. After completing her studies in 1924, she obtained a scholarship to travel and study in Italy for a year. During this period she was greatly influenced by the quality and power of light and its impact on colour and form (in much the same way as the impressionist painters before her), and by the sculptural forms of painters such as Masaccio.
   During the period 1931–9, Hepworth and Moore were subject to similar influences, particularly the work produced by Gaudier and Epstein at the height of the Vorticist Movement, although some differences were already emerging. In 1931 Hepworth became a member of the ‘Seven and Five Society’, a group of seven painters and five sculptors including Moore. It was at around this time she met the painter Ben Nicholson (also a member), who, as well as later becoming her second husband, was also to be a major influence on her work.
   It was in the early 1930s that her work took a real turn towards abstraction, perhaps best demonstrated by the sculpture Pierced Form, in which a hole was punched through a closed form. The use of the ‘hole’ was to be much further developed by both herself and Moore, and she appears to have been the first sculptor in England to use it. During the 1930s, working mainly in wood and stone, her work became increasingly abstract; after 1938 she began to move away from piercing forms with holes and began opening the holes out into different shapes and including strings and colour in her work. At the beginning of the war she moved to St Ives in Cornwall, where she drew inspiration from her observation and experience of the Cornish landscape.
   In the early 1950s she parted from Ben Nicholson and began both working on a larger scale and experimenting in bronze, characteristics which marked the next phase of her work and which also bought international recognition. Subsequently she also worked in concrete and aluminium. She died on 21 May 1975 in a fire at Trewyn Studio (now reconditioned as a museum) in St Ives. Her work can be seen at locations in Britain, Europe and USA.
   See also: sculpture; St Ives
   Further reading
    Curtis, P. (1998) Barbara Hepworth, St Ives Artists series, London: Tate Gallery Publishing. Hammacher, A.M. (1987) Barbara Hepworth, revised edn, London: Thames & Hudson.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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