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A Famous Female Sculptor: Barbara Hepworth

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By Author: Martin Davis
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barbara hepworth


Barbara Hepworth studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art along with Henry Moore. In 1928, Hepworth and Moore, along with her friend and fellow artist Richard Bedford, became the leaders of this new method of direct carving sculpture. In 1932, she and her then-husband Ben Nicholson mounted a sculpture exhibition declaring their move to abstraction and joined the group, Abstraction-Création, and became the driving force behind constructivism. When World War II hit London, Hepworth escaped to St. Ives in Cornwall, but she worked to form an artist group that brought international recognition to St. Ives artists after the war. Hepworth exhibited extensively and was committed to producing many public works, including One Shape for the United Nations in 1964. Barbara Hepworth sculpture for sale is available online. Her work included smooth curves ...
... and creative exploration of negative space.

Hepworth was born into a middle-class family in Wakefield, Yorkshire, at the turn of the century. Her father was a civil engineer who became a county surveyor. Barbara Hepworth artwork was obvious from the start and he received a scholarship to the Leeds School of Art in 1920. It was here that he met sculptor Henry Moore, perhaps the best known of contemporary artists of this era. There is no doubt that he was a great influence on his work, but it is likely that it was a two-way process. From here he won an additional scholarship to the Royal College of Art and received a diploma in 1923. The following year, Hepworth stayed to compete for the Prix de Rome. She lost to John Skeaping, who would become her husband.

After a period in Italy, Hepworth and Skeaping returned to settle in London, where they both gained reputations and portfolios. Although the couple had a son, Paul, in 1929 their relationship failed to survive and they divorced in 1933. It was during this period that she met artist Ben Nicholson with whom she would eventually move to St Ives.

In 1934, Hepworth and Nicholson became parents of triplets; Simon, Rachel, and Sarah Hepworth-Nicholson. Four years later the couple married and shortly after, with the outbreak of war, she moved to St Ive's, first settling in Carbis Bay. While Hepworth was largely concerned with family life, Nicholson became an influence for emerging local artists such as Peter Lanyon, Terry Frost, and John Wells, who formed the separatist Penwith Society of Artists.

After this hiatus, Hepworth returned to the art world with a series of exhibitions and commissions in London. By the late 1940s, the relationship between her and Nicholson had begun to falter. In 1949 she purchased Trewyn Studio (now the Barbara Hepworth Museum) and moved there in 1950 and divorced Nicholson in 1951.
Barbara Hepworth lived and worked at Trewyn Studio for the rest of her life and it was during this period that she produced most of her best-known works of hers. She found the studio inspiring, writing, 'Finding Trewyn Studio was a kind of magic, here was a studio, a patio and a garden where she could work outdoors and in space.'

It was around this time that Barbara Hepworth began to move from her preferred medium of stone and wood towards the bronze that we most associate with her. Many of these castings still remain in St Ives, either at the Trewyn studio or at various locations in the city. The space provided by working outdoors also allowed her to scale up her work.

In 1953, Hepworth's eldest son Paul was killed in a plane crash in Thailand while serving in the RAF. There is a moving monument in the chapel of the Madonna of the church of St Ia, Madonna and Child (Bianco del Mare) that Hepworth carved out of stone.

During the 1960s, Hepworth consolidated his status as an internationally recognized artist with works such as "Single Form", whose casting is located outside the United Nations building in New York. This perforated shape is very representative of the style for which Hepworth is best known. Along with Henry Moore, it is Barbara Hepworth who can claim the influence of the hole in modern sculpture. Explore Barbara Hepworth sculptures and her other artwork in bidsquare which will make you amaze.
In 1965, at the age of 62, Hepworth became Dame Barbara Hepworth (Commander of the British Empire) for her contribution to the contemporary art world. The same year she was also appointed a trustee of the Tate Gallery in London.

Hepworth continued to work until the 1970s at the Trewyn studio. However, tragedy struck on May 20, 1975, when Hepworth died in a fire in her study, believed to have been caused by a cigarette that set her bedding on fire. She had been seriously ill for some time before her death, but the accident was a shock nonetheless. Barbara Hepworth is buried in Longstone Cemetery in Carbis Bay with a simple slate headstone marking her grave. To bid for the artworks of this artist, see the artist page of Barbara Hepworth in Bidsquare.

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