Leading Lady : Barbara Hepworth

"Sculpture communicates an immediate sense of life - you can feel the pulse of it."

Barbara Hepworth's earliest memories were of traveling with her father through the Yorkshire countryside as he worked as County Surveyor. She was fascinated by the form and texture of the landscape and the sensation of moving on and through the shapes of the hills. By age 15, Barbara knew she wanted to become a sculptor. She enrolled at Leeds School of Art in 1920 and won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London the following year.

As a student, Barbara was among few innovative sculptors that carved directly into stone, while other sculptors made models in clay. After completing her studies at the Royal College of Art, she spent two years in Italy studying architecture and marble carving. She returned to London, where she stayed for over a decade until settling in St. Ives at the start of World War II. The landscape of St. Ives was a source of inspiration for Barbara, and she lived and worked in the seaside town until her death in 1975.

Barbara was among the first female modernist sculptors and is considered one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century. Hepworth's work, frequently made from wood, stone, or bronze, was heavily influenced by the natural world. The use of space within her sculptures acts as an invitation to experience the inside of the sculpture as Barbara had experienced the landscape. Barbara worked for fifty years - through war, the birth of triplets, and divorce - creating more than 600 sculptures, drawings, and lithographs. Her largest piece Single Form stands in the United Nations Plaza in New York. After her death, Barbara's studio in St. Ives became The Barbara Hepworth Museum, and in 2011 The Hepworth Wakefield was opened in the town where she was born, displaying a permanent collection of her work. - Kelly Longhurst


Photo Credit : Rosemary Mathews