Barbara Hepworth 1903 - 1975

barbara hepworth creative drawings female in art hepworth sculptor sculpture st ives war art women Aug 08, 2022

Hepworth was a British sculptor whose works were among the earliest abstract sculptures produced in England.


Born 10 January in Wakefield, Yorkshire, the eldest child of Herbert and Gertrude (née Johnson) Hepworth. Educated at Wakefield girls school with a music Scholarship. Spent holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay near Whitby, North Yorkshire. 


1920 - 21 attends Leeds School of art. Fellow pupil is Henry Moore. Then went on to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art between 1921 and 1924. 


In 1924 she is awarded a scholarship and travels to Italy to study art and architecture in Florence and Rome. 


While she was in Italy she met and married fellow sculptor John Skeaping, in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. 


Then the following year in 1936 she went to Siena and learned to carve marble with master of the art Giovanni Ardini. 


Hepworth and Skeaping return to London after he develops ill health. 


They start to exhibit their work in their St. Johns flat and the collector George Eumorfopoulos buys “Seated Figure” and “mother and child”. 


Hepworth and Skeaping have a baby, Paul in 1929. 


In 1931, Hepworth and Skeaping seperate following Hepworth’s romance wirh Ben Nicholson. 


In 1932 creates her first holed sculpture “Pierced Form”, subsequently destroyed in the war. 


In 1933, Hepworth and Nicholson toured France and met Brancusi, Picasso and Braque. 


Throughout the 1930’s Hepworth exhibited regularly. Her sculptures took on more monumental forms, growing in size. 


In 1939, they move to Cornwall, after the birth of their triplets. Due to the change in circumstances, living conditions in a small cottage with 3 babies, Hepworth is unable to create her larger sculptures, so she starts to draw sculptures and create small plaster models. The paintings were all a similar take on Forms with Colour, which, she said she found 'so quick and easy!!!’


The physical qualities of Forms with Colour reflect the conditions in which it was made. It is painted on a poor quality support, described by conservators as a very fibrous thin laminate board, which is laid on a thicker board. Both gouache and an oil based paint - most probably for household use - were applied and have crackled badly where one has been laid over the other.



In 1942 they move to a larger house and Hepworth is able to start creating again. 

Throughout the war Hepworth created a large number of 2D drawings/paintings. She characterised them as scribbled sections of form or lines on scraps of paper. 


'I do spend whole periods of time entirely in drawing (or painting, as I use colour) when I search for forms and rhythms and curvatures for my own satisfaction. These drawings I call "drawings for sculpture"; but it is in a general sense - that is - out of the drawings springs a general influence’


Some of the works consist of intersecting straight lines to produce a parabolic curve creates a sense of three dimensional space and the different tones of grey give the illusion of successive planar layers. In this way they invoke comparison with sculpture, specifically, the strung works of Naum Gabo. He used a similar technique of intersecting threads in his Linear Construction in Space No.1. 


In 1948 austerity Britain, stone was in short supply. She befriended a local surgeon and asked if she could sketch him at work in the operating theatre, putting down her chisel and taking up a pencil, capturing the physical labour of surgery. 


The Tate gallery aquired its first Hepworth sculpture in 1949, Bicentric Form. She took part in the festival of Britain 1951, where some of her sculptures were exhibited along the Southbank. 

Her marriage to Ben Nicholson was disolved later the same year. 


She settled in St Ives for the remainder of her life, she died in a fire in her studio in 1975. Join our live Hepworth workshop online, Book your space at:


Want to join my FREE Pen and Watercolour course?

Yes Please