Barbara Hepworth was a very famous British sculptor, who was born in Wakefield in 1903.Her earliest memories were from driving though the countryside with her family. She never forgot the shapes made by the roads, hills and fields and they inspired her to make some amazing artwork…
She studied at Leeds School of Art with Henry Moore, who became a life-long friend. This is what his work looked like. What do you think are the similarities and differences in their work?
Here is an early sculpture by Hepworth made in 1929.
It is of her son Paul, who was born in 1929. It is made of wood that has been sandpapered until it is smooth and glossy. The baby looks as if he is lying on his back, but Hepworth has made the sculpture stand upright, like a wooden icon. It also looks a bit like an African carving. Many modern artists were influenced by African art at this time.
Barbara’s most important sculptures were abstract. They were made of wood, stone and bronze. Barbara said her work was a way of ‘holding a beautiful thought’. Do you agree?
In the 1930s, Hepworth became part of a group of artists who stopped making art that looked like people and started making abstract art. She met with a lot of international artists, like Picasso, Mondrian and Kandinsky! She was pretty cool.
Here is an early abstract sculpture she made…
I bet you can guess which part is the mother and which is the child?
Hepworth wanted to create art that was calm, that people could enjoy looking at and would not make them feel uncomfortable or anxious. She began to make sculptures and drawings that were inspired by the landscape and nature around her.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Hepworth and her family moved to St Ives in Cornwall. St Ives was a very popular place for artists to live. Hepworth and her husband, the artist Ben Nicholson formed the St Ives Group. The artists of the St Ives Group wanted their sculptures to look like they had been formed by the landscape, or like pebbles found on the seashore. This sculpture is called Oval. Do you think it looks a bit like a stone that has had its edges smoothed down by the force of the sea?
Barbara wanted people to look at the world in a different way, she wanted you to use her sculptures to frame a landscape. Look through her work, over it, from far away or really close.
She was asked to make art for public places like outside the United Nations building in New York or on Oxford Street in London.
Hepworth passed away in 1975, but her smooth, organic looking sculptures still make many people look at the world differently today!
We really do love Barbara Hepworth at Tate Kids and we have lots of activities and games to do inspired by Hepworth. You can download our free drawing app, make a necklace, carve soap or even explore her garden!