Mari Griffith
11 April 2024

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Mari Griffith

11 April 2024 | Minute read

Barbara Hepworth was one of Britain’s most important twentieth-century sculptors, known for her pioneering abstract sculptures.

Born in Wakefield in Yorkshire, she attended Leeds School of Art from 1920 to 1921, studying alongside Henry Moore, and the Royal College of Art in London until 1923. In 1924 she won a scholarship to Florence and soon moved to Rome, where she learned to carve marble and met her first husband, sculptor John Skeaping.

After getting married in Florence in 1925, the couple settled in north London where their son Paul was born in 1929. Two years later, she and Skeaping separated after Hepworth met the artist Ben Nicholson. During the 1930s, she and Nicholson travelled many times to France, meeting avant-garde artists like Brancusi, Arp, Picasso, Braque, Mondrian, Kandinsky and Gabo. They had triplets in 1934 and in 1938, moved to St Ives in Cornwall, where Hepworth lived for the rest of her life.

From the 1940s onwards, Hepworth exhibited extensively in the UK, Europe and beyond, including her first retrospective in 1943, the British Pavilion at the 25th Venice Biennale in 1950 and the Festival of Britain in London in 1951. In the 1960s, her many public commissions included the John Lewis store on Oxford Street and United Nations Plaza in New York.

Hepworth’s marriage to Nicholson ended in 1951, and in 1953, she lost her first son in an RAF air crash, aged 24. She herself died in a fire in her studio in St Ives.

Mari Griffith is an art historian who has worked in the field of museums and galleries for 30 years, developing and overseeing learning and interpretation provision for public art collections and exhibitions, including at the National Gallery, National Gallery of Art and Royal Academy of Arts. Following a period working internationally on art and heritage interpretation, she is now a freelance writer, editor and translator – focusing mostly on art.

© Bowness/Barbara Hepworth/Amgueddfa Cymru - Museum Wales


More like this