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Who was Barbara Hepworth?

In this video, you'll discover the life and work of one of Britain's best-known sculptors, Barbara Hepworth.
Barbara Hepworth was one of the most prolific and active sculptors in Britain, producing 600 works over her five-decade career. She was born in Wakefield in 1903, the daughter of Gertrude and Herbert, a civil engineer for West Riding County Council. Hepworth attended Leeds College of Art where she first connected with Henry Moore. The two would share a close relationship, albeit sometimes competitive, for the rest of their careers. Hepworth was a cosmopolitan figure and frequently travelled to Europe. There, she connected with famous artists including Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, and Sophie Tauber-Arp. She and her second husband, Ben Nicholson, were considered central figures in an international network of abstract artists. Her Yorkshire roots remained important to her though.
She wrote: The whole of this Yorkshire background means more to me as the years have passed. I draw on these early experiences not only visually in texture and contour, but humanly. The importance of man in landscape was stressed by the seeming contradiction of the industrial town springing out of the inner beauty of the country. Hepworth’s legacy on British sculpture is profound. She received many important public commissions including her Winged Figure for the flagship John Lewis store on Oxford Street and Single Form for the United Nations’ building in New York. She was internationally recognised as one of the most innovative sculptors of her time.
Now, were going to take a closer look at her sculpture, Antiphon to discover what makes her work so unique.
All my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the form. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of fullness and concavities, through hollows and over peaks – feeling, touching, seeing, through mind and hand and eye. This sensation has never left me. I, the sculptor, am the landscape. I am the form and I am the hollow, the thrust and the contour.

These are the words of the sculptor, Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) as she recalled her childhood in the area that would eventually become the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle (thanks to her work and fame).

During Hepworth’s lifetime, she was one of a few female artists who achieved international acclaim and recognition. The Hepworth Wakefield museum is one of the few in the world named in honour of a female artist. Find out more about this pioneering sculptor in the video.

If you’d like to learn more about Hepworth’s life and work, download Episode 1 of the Paul Mellon Centre’s podcast series Sculpting Lives. In each 45-minute episode, art historians discuss a woman sculptor and explore her artworks, networks, connections and relationships.


Barbara Hepworth, A Pictorial Autobiography (Bath: Moonraker Press, 1971).

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Modern Sculpture: An Introduction to Art History

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