Barbara Hepworth

Barbara Hepworth

A giant in the history of British Modernism, Hepworth’s lithography and sculpture in particular, and her commitment to organic abstraction and the innovative use of various media, can be seen echoing in the work of countless artists today. Read more

Born in West Yorkshire in 1903, Hepworth attended Wakefield Girls' High, and, in 1920, she moved on to Leeds College of Art, where she befriended Henry Moore, Raymond Coxon and Edna Ginesi, and moved down with them to the Royal College of Art in London. At only 20, she was awarded the College's Diploma of Associateship, and, in her postgraduate year, was nominated for the Prix de Rome in sculpture. She narrowly missed out, but, on a travel scholarship to Rome in 1924, she met the winner, John Skeaping, and married him in 1925. After a year at the British School in Rome, the couple moved back to London, and co-exhibited at the Beaux Arts Gallery in 1928, and, in 1930, at Arthur Tooth & Son. Hepworth remembered this as 'a wonderfully happy time', and their son, Paul, was born in 1929.

The marriage was dissolved in 1933 – 'there was no ill-feeling – we fell apart' – and her second marriage was to the painter Ben Nicholson in 1938. Together, Hepworth and Nicholson made up the nucleus of the St Ives group in Cornwall. In 1933 they visited Paris where they were introduced to Picasso and Braque but also, more importantly for her, Jean Arp and Brancusi: it was the work of these two artists, and Nicholson, which had the most influence on her.

Her work was featured at the 1952 Venice Biennial and won the top prize at the 1959 Sao Paulo Biennial. Additionally, she held her first major retrospective exhibition, which contributed to the honor of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, receiving the rank of Dame in 1965.

In 1968 and 1970 she drew two groups of lithographs at the Curwen Studio, one of the UK’s most influential printmaking studios, which broke new ground for her. In concept they were sculptural but as prints they became important examples of abstract art in Britain at the time. Lithography best suited her feeling for the creation of shapes with graphic lines.

Hepworth’s lithographs, for the part they played in developing modern art, and indeed in defining Modernism, have become increasingly sought after.



Barbara Hepworth's sculpture 'Figure For Landscape' sold for a record £4,170,500 in Christie's sale of modern British and Irish art in June. However Norway's Kunsthall Stavanger Museum who sold the piece have been met by fierce opposition by members of the Norwegian art world who see the sale as the 'theft' of a national treasure. Opponants have lodged an appeal to a failed law suit which sought to block the sale. If the appeal is approved Christie's may have to revoke the sale. However, supporters of the Kunsthall Stavanger argue that without the sale of the work the Musuem would have to close its doors due to its massive deficit. 

Figure For Landscape