Five of Hepworth’s greats

Published 18 June 2015

As Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World opens at Tate Britain next week, we look at some of Hepworth’s best sculptures.

1. The Family of Man, 1970, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

This series of nine bronze individual sculptures emerging from the earth reflects Hepworth’s long-standing fascination with the relationship between man and nature. ‘The importance of man in the landscape was stressed by the seeming contradiction of the industrial town springing out of the inner beauty of the country’, wrote Hepworth in 1952. ‘This paradox expressed for me the fundamental and ideal unity of man with nature which I consider to be one of the basic impulses of sculpture.’

2. Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956, Pier Arts Centre

Just before the Second World War, Hepworth moved to St Ives with her then-husband Ben Nicholson and their triplets. Inspired by the local ‘barbaric and magical’ landscape, Curved Form (Trevalgan) is Hepworth’s response to Cornwall’s countryside; Trevalgan is the name of the hill that was near her home.

3. Wave, 1943–44, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. On loan to Tate Britain

Wave is another example of Hepworth’s response to Cornwall’s landscape. She commented: 'I had a studio workroom looking straight towards the horizon of the sea, enfolded by the arms of the land to the left and right'. The two 'arms' of the sculpture respond to this view. As her work matured during the 1930s and 1940s, Hepworth focussed on the counterplay between the forms’ inside and outside. Wave epitomises the kind of sculpture she produced at the time.

The sculpture was acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1999 with help from the Art Fund.

4. Full scale model of Winged Figure, 1961-2, The Hepworth Wakefield

The final Winged Figure hangs outside John Lewis on London’s Oxford Street, but you can see the full scale prototype at The Hepworth in Wakefield. Tasked by the retailer with creating a work that channels ‘the idea of common ownership and common interests in a partnership of thousand of workers’, Hepworth was interested in the cooperative’s ethos. Following the war, her increasing sense of community made her all the more eager to contribute to Britain’s post-war reconstruction by making public works.

5. Fallen Images, 1974-5, Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Imbued with a melancholic tone, Fallen Images was Hepworth’s last major work. It consists of six free-standing forms assembled on a circular platform. The careful arrangement of the work’s elements and the use of her favourite material can be interpreted as an assertion of Hepworth’s continued belief in idealist values embodied in pure abstract form.

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World is at Tate Britain from 24 June to 25 October and is 50% off with a National Art Pass.

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