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Barbara HEPWORTH

(1903 - 1975)


A British sculptress, born in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in 1903, Barbara Hepworth was the main practitioner of abstract sculpture in the first half of the 20th century. In 1950 she represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, and in 1959 took the Grand Prix at the Sao Paolo Biennial. Thanks to a scholarship, at the age of sixteen she had gone to study sculpture at the Leeds College of Art and Design (1920-1921), at which Henry Moore also studied. Both of them studied sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London (1921-1924). She was shortlisted for the Prix-de-Rome in 1924, although the first prize went to John Skeaping, later to become her first husband. Barbara Hepworth spent two years in Italy after her studies. In Rome she acquired a thorough knowledge of work in stone. In London she had learned only modelling. She returned to London in November 1926, and in December of the following year she and Skeaping had a joint exhibition. In 1929, their son Paul was born. During this London period, Hepworth was often in contact with Henry Moore. In 1930 and 1931 they spent a holiday together on the coast of Norfolk. The painter Ben Nicholson joined them, and Barbara divorced Skeaping and married Nicholson in 1931. They then travelled around Europe, meeting Braque and Mondrian, visiting the studios of Picasso, Brancusi, Jean Arp and Sophie Taueber Arp. A few years later she took part in the movement Abstraction-Création and in the edition of Circle (1937) with Naum Gabo in London. A few days before war broke out in 1939, they decided to leave London and settle down in Saint Ives in Cornwall. She lived and worked in the Trewyn studio that today houses the Hepworth Museum until her death in 1975. At her wish, her home and studio were turned into a museum. Both the studio and a large number of her works that were in it were donated to the nation and entrusted to the Tate in 1980. During her lifetime the Tate Gallery had given her an important retrospective (1968) and in 2015, Tate Britain organised an exhibition of her works that was the most complete to date.

Figure (Walnut) (1964) is a sculpture of geometrical and organic forms in which one can see the play of convex and concave forms, a constant opposition between full and void.The sculpture is massive and intersected with air, thus appropriating the space that surrounds it.

Figure (Walnut)
Figure (Walnut), 1964

Bronze
184 x 44 cm
Don de l'artiste, 1967
Collection de la Fondation Maeght