Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World -Tate Britain

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.

Tate Britain Barbara Hepworth retrospective
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.

Barbara Hepworth Linbury Galleries Tate BritaiBorn in 1903, Barbara Hepworth started creating carvings in the 1920s, and studied sculpture at Leeds School of Art where she became friends with fellow artist Henry Moore.

Barbara Hepworth sculpture
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.

Barbara Hepworth Tate Britain
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.

Large and Small Form 1934
This deceptively simple “Figure” was carved from white alabaster in 1933. Take a look at the head though and you’ll notice the detailed silhouette of the face.

Barbara Hepworth Linbury
From the mid 1940s, Hepworth created a series of sculptures from hollowed wood, painting the interiors. These curved forms apparently reflected her feelings when she stood in the natural landscape.

Barbara Hepworth wood sculpture
Carved from beautiful African hardwood guarea, many regard these sculptures as the highlight of Hepworth’s carving career.

Hepworth wood sculpture
This striking piece, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) was created in 1943.

Sculpture with Colour
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.

Barbara Hepworth pavilion
Hepworth Modernist pavilion
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 landscape
Which is your favourite piece? Have you visited Tate Britain?

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

  • This looks really cool!
    Melanie @

  • Jersey Girl

    I think I just found something to do in London the day after our meet up! 🙂 x Jersey Girl x

    • You definitely should give it a visit Melissa, such a gorgeous building too!

  • K.

    Every-time I come here Suze, you are always taking me somewhere with so much culture and beauty. And today is no different. I just love all the photos of these sculptures. I could stare at them all day long :).

    Kia / The House of KTS

    • That’s very kind Kia. I was wowed by the sculptures too, especially Mother and Child – when you see the name of it, it becomes really obvious what the sculpture is!

  • Beautiful pieces. I would love to see this.

    District of Chic

    • I hope you do get to visit, there are some stunning sculptures on display – thanks for stopping by my site

  • The egg shaped piece is gorgeous – so touchable. Will have to make an effort to visit this exhibition 🙂

    • I liked that egg shaped piece too, and the Mother and Child is really interesting

  • I rarely ever pop over to the Tate Britain EXCEPT after a walk through Pimlico, then I sit on the steps, fantasising about how life would be if I’d studied at adjacent Chelsea College of Art instead of St Martins. Would I be the art school Blair Waldorf, eating my quinoa pots on the uppermost step while my minion classmates gathered deferentially at the rungs below? Maaaaybe. I think I WILL go to the Tate B, at least to do more than fan my mad Gossip Girl delusions 😉 x

    Jasiminne / Posh, Broke, & Bored – Luxury lifestyle blog

    • Ha ha, I can just see you sitting on the steps a la Blair Waldorf! You could reenact a scene from GG on the Tate steps

  • Lucy

    I didn’t know this was on it really appeals I love sculptures bronze being a favouirte. The larger piece look beautiful this looks like a wonderful afternoon out. Hope your well Lucy x

    • What I like about sculptures is that they look impressive from all angles, so you can walk around admiring them from all sides and Barbara Hepworth’s are no exception

  • Tracy

    These sculptures look amazing!

    • They are Tracy, and to think they were made so many years ago yet look so modern! Thanks for stopping by

  • Wow this place! And those sculptures are mesmerizing!

    • The building itself is very impressive and the permanent collection is free to visit. They put on lots of interesting exhibitions

  • Paola

    Interesting sculptures, great place!!!
    xo Paola
    My Facebook

    • Tate Britain is amazing, and Tate Modern gives it a run for its money!

  • I have to confess that I’ve never heard about Barbara Hepworth so far, but I like her sculptures. Generally I’m not a fan of modern art but this is beautiful.

    • She’s Britain’s best known sculptress and she definitely deserves to be better known – glad you liked it

  • Corinne C

    I love the hollow wood ones! I wish I was a bit more artistic!

    Corinne x

    • Those wooden ones are gorgeous aren’t they, such a lovely wood that I hadn’t heard of before

  • ♫ Alison M ♪

    What fascinating sculptures. Some of them make me think of shells.

    • That’s interesting Alison, some of them do look a bit like shells

  • stylentonic Constantinos

    Very interesting exhibition

  • Very intriguing shapes. It’s been ages since I’ve been to either Tate…

    • Worth you visiting when next in London, and don’t forget to look me up – would be lovely to meet!

  • wow amazing sculptures


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  • Beautiful! Such a great place to visit in London.

  • I’m so ashamed that I haven’t been to Tate Britain. Been to Tate Modern multiple times. But have never done Tate Britain. I should rectify that and save my reputation x

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