Hepworth (1903-1975) is best known for her flowing sculptures inspired by organic shapes and contours of nature. She is considered one of Britain’s most important artists alongside Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Francis Bacon and is credited with helping to pioneer modern art in the country. The retrospective Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, takes a look at the woman behind the art and how she rose to be an international figure, whose work is on show around the world.
The high points of the exhibition are definitely concentrated in the final two galleries: Guarea and Pavillion. Here are the larger sculptures from the mid-1950s and 1960s that exemplify Hepworth’s style, spirit and love of landscape. The Guarea room houses some of the sculptures she carved from the tropical hardwood, Guarea, many of which were inspired by a trip to Greece after the death of her son.
In the Pavilion room, the Tate has tried to recreate an exhibition space originally designed by Gerrit Rietveld in 1965. Rietveld, an architect, was commissioned to design a space to specifically exhibit sculptures. Originally in Arnhem’s Sonsbeek Park in Holland, it was inaugurated with an exhibition of Hepworth’s bronzes. Hepworth loved the space describing the Pavilion as being an ideal setting for her large abstract bronzes.
The preceding galleries act as scene setters, providing insight into her life and showing some of her smaller works alongside those of her contemporaries. This is interesting to see, but the works that gained her recognition as an internationally acclaimed artist are too few and those that are on display seem suffocated in the Tate’s space. It is easy to see why she always insisted that her work should be seen outside, ‘allowed to breathe’ outdoors as she put it.
The Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World is on at the Tate Britain in London until 25th October 2015. For more information visit: www.tate.org.uk
Other places to see collections of her sculptures include:
Hepworth Wakefield: http://www.hepworthwakefield.org/ and
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden: http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum
Both of the above have gardens and show her work out-of-doors.