Biography of Barbara Hepworth
With a career that spanned over five decades Barbara Hepworth was one of the most important modernist sculptors of the 20th century, and has become known for totally revolutionizing the medium. Barbara Hepworth (b. 1903, Wakefield, United Kingdom) began her artist apprenticeship at Leeds School of Art between 1920 and 1921, and would eventually move on to study sculpture at the prestigious, though then very much male-dominated, Royal College of Art in London. It was here that she would learn the method of direct carving; avoiding traditional processes of sculpture that involved making models and maquettes and rather work directly into the chosen material. With Henry Moore, the pair would become leading practitioners in this avant-garde method.
From 1932, Barbara Hepworth would spend much time travelling around Europe, and it was then that she would meet and visit the studios of artists such as Georges Braque, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brancusi among others. This represented a seminal moment in Barbara Hepworth’s artistic processes, helping her approach her career with new vigor and clarity. Following this period, and the subsequent outbreak of WWII, Barbara moved to the English seaside town St. Ives which had become a refuge for many artists. Though primarily concerned with the abstraction she had discovered on her travels, her relationship to the landscapes, the colors, textures and forms of the English coast would have a lifelong influence on her work.
Though known first and foremost as a sculptor, Barbara Hepworth worked in other mediums as well and has been particularly lauded for documenting her work, often through photography. She also proved to be a keen printmaker, particularly in her later career where she focused largely on the medium of lithography. During the late 1960s, she would often print editions to accompany her sculptures, most notably Three Forms which was printed in an edition of 60, associated to a carved, grey alabaster sculpture of hers, inspired by her birth to triplets.
The most significant collections of her work are at the Barbara Hepworth Museum in St. Ives, Cornwall and The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Her work can also be seen at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Yorkshire, the Tate Britain, London and Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands. Barbara Hepworth would represent Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1950 and win first prize at the São Paulo Biennale in 1959. Though she died from a tragic fire in her studio in 1975, she has made an enormous contribution to the world of sculpture, receiving for this honorary degrees from numerous British universities, and being made a Dame of the British Empire in 1965.