An astonishingly beautiful collection of sketches, revealing the celebrated sculptor’s powers as a draughtsperson

Barbara Hepworth’s friendship with surgeon Norman Capener led to a grand cross-disciplinary dialogue in the late forties. She invited the medic, who had operated on her daughter’s thigh, to her house at St Ives, where he learned to carve; he invited the sculptor into the operating theatre of the Exeter hospital where he worked so that the artist could observe surgeons at work.

She wrote of the experience: ‘in about the middle of 1947, a suggestion was made to me that I might watch an operation in a hospital. I expected that I should dislike it; but from the moment when I entered the operating theatre I became completely absorbed by two things: first, the extraordinary beauty of purpose and co-ordination between human beings all dedicated to the saving of life, and the way that unity of idea and purpose dictated a perfection of concentration, movement, and gesture, and secondly by the way this special grace (grace of mind and body) induced a spontaneous space composition, an articulated and animated kind of abstract sculpture very close to what I had been seeking in my own work.

'For two years I drew, not only in the operating theatres of hospitals, but from groups in my studio and groups observed around me.'

The Hepworth Wakefield

Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW

01924 247360


Opening times

Mon – Sun, 10am – 5pm
Last Wednesday of every other month, 10am – 7pm

Free to all

10% off in shop

Valid to 31 December 2019

Enjoy 10% off all shop purchases at the Hepworth Wakefield gallery with your National Art Pass. The gallery shop sells a range of books, magazines, stationary, artist-designed products and unique presents.

Haven't got your pass yet? Learn more

Exhibitions and events at The Hepworth Wakefield

Exhibitions nearby

Back to top