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International Musicians Seminar


Lot 14: Barbara Hepworth

Lot 14: Barbara Hepworth Torso 1958
50.8 x 30.5 cm, Oil paint and ink on gesso-covered hardboard

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Barbara Hepworth was born in 1903 in Wakefield, Yorkshire. After graduating from Wakefield Girls’ High School, she attended Leeds School of Art and then the Royal College of Art in London. In 1924 she received a West Riding Scholarship for travel abroad; she went to northern Italy, where she first studied Romanesque and early Renaissance art and architecture and then learnt to carve marble.

She married fellow sculptor John Skeaping in Florence in 1925. The couple returned to London the following year and in 1929 they had a son, Paul. The marriage broke down and in 1931 Hepworth began a relationship with the painter Ben Nicholson, with whom she worked very closely during the early 1930s. Their triplets were born in 1934. Over the following few years their work became increasingly aligned with values associated with ‘International Constructive Art’.

At the outbreak of war in 1939, the young family moved to St Ives in Cornwall, where they were joined by their friend, Russian artist Naum Gabo. Although Gabo and Nicholson left St Ives respectively in 1946 and 1958, Hepworth continued to live permanently in St Ives. In 1949 she bought Trewyn studio (now the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden), where she lived and worked for the next twenty-five years.

During the 1940s and ‘50s Hepworth’s work increasingly responded to her experiences of particular places and she was especially stimulated by the strong historical, physical and emotional connection between the human figure and the landscape. During the 1950s her works became increasingly large in scale and open in form – a development that was greatly aided by her use from 1956 of sheet metal and bronze. Significant exhibitions were held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1954 and 1962), the Kröller-Müller in Otterlo (1965) and the Tate Gallery (1968). During her lifetime Hepworth’s work also travelled as far as South America (1959–60) and Japan (1970). She died in an accidental fire at Trewyn in 1975.

For more information about this work, and about its construction and conservation please see the online catalogue.