Barbara Hepworth is one of Britain’s greatest artists, and Tate Britain is presenting the first major London retrospective of her work for nearly half a century. With over 100 works, Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World is a comprehensive round-up of her bronzes and carvings and I was lucky to attend the recent press launch in the Linbury Galleries.
The Linbury Galleries do not benefit from natural light, but the sculptures sit well in this space, which reunites not only her sculptures but also personal photograph albums compiled by Barbara Hepworth and her second husband, the artist Ben Nicholson.
Hepworth was at the forefront of international modernism, the international community of abstract artists in the 1930s that included Piet Mondrian and Alexander Calder. London became a gathering place for emigre artists fleeing the Nazis, such as Naum Gabo.
This Mother and Child sculpture from 1934, carved from pink ancaster stone, reflects a common theme at the time where the subjects were carved from a single piece of stone. However, Hepworth turned this convention on its head by representing the Mother and child with separate pieces of stone, joined together.
Carved from beautiful African hardwood guarea, many regard these sculptures as the highlight of Hepworth’s carving career.
This striking piece, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) was created in 1943.
Hepworth’s fame was spreading and she represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1950. Since 1956, as demand for her work grew, she made sculptures in bronze as well as stone and wood, allowing her to produce work in multiple editions. Tate Britain has recreated a Modernist pavilion which featured Hepworth’s bronzes at her 1965 retrospective at the Kroller-Muller Museum in the Netherlands.
It’s an impressive display, and a reminder of how well her sculptures work outdoors. I for one, would love to visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in St Ives, Cornwall where she lived until her death in 1975. Don’t forget to visit the gift shop as Tate Enterprises has created a range of products inspired by Barbara Hepworth, including homewares and jewellery designed by Tuula Nicholson, her granddaughter, and Margaret Howell, the well-known fashion designer who has come up with a range of artist’s clothes.
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, Tate Britain, Linbury Galleries, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
24 June – 25 October 2015, open daily 10.00-18.00
Admission: £16.30 (£14.50 concessions) or £18.00 (£16.00 concessions) with Gift Aid donation