Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life

27 May-3 Sep 2023


This exhibition, which has garnered rave reviews across the country after visits to Wakefield, Edinburgh and St Ives, will display some of Hepworth’s most celebrated sculptures including the modern abstract carving that launched her career in the 1920s and 1930s, her iconic strung sculptures of the 1940s and 1950s, and large-scale bronze and carved sculptures from later in her career. Key loans from national public collections will be shown alongside works from private collections that have not been on public display since the 1970s, and rarely seen drawings, paintings and fabric designs. The exhibition will be themed around Hepworth's broader cultural interests in music, dance, theatre, politics and literature, exploring these and encouraging new interpretations and presentations of her work. 

The exhibition will open with an introduction to Barbara Hepworth’s work, showing the three sculptural forms she returned to repeatedly throughout her career using a variety of different materials. Though abstract, these forms reveal Hepworth’s enduring ability to express essential human experiences, from interpersonal relationships to our connection to the world around us. A detailed look at Hepworth’s childhood in Yorkshire through archive material and photographs will include some of the artist’s earliest known paintings, carvings and life drawings as she began to explore movement and the human form. The exhibition will also explore Hepworth’s passion for dance, and how she captured movement with gestural paintings and sculptures such as Forms in Movement (Galliard) and Curved Form (Pavan), contextualising her move to creating sculptures in metal in the 1950s.

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at Towner Eastbourne will culminate with a section looking at Hepworth’s interest in science and technology, from the bold geometric abstract drawings and sculptures made in the 1930s and her friendship with physicist J D Bernal, through to her iconic Hospital Drawings of the 1940s, and her fascination with the Space Race in the 1960s. A group of works will be brought together to reveal the influence of this decade of space exploration on Hepworth, from Disc with Strings (Moon), 1969, made the year Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, to Four Hemispheres, inspired by the Telstar satellite. Hepworth noted at the end of the decade, ‘Man’s discovery of flight has radically altered the shape of our sculpture, just as it has altered our thinking.’ With all these works, Hepworth married her interest in science with a deep spirituality, which will also be explored through the exhibition. In these works, and many others throughout her career, Hepworth connected the local with the universal, and challenged the boundaries of modern sculpture in ways that continue to reverberate today.

Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life is organised by The Hepworth Wakefield in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland (Edinburgh), Tate St Ives and Towner Eastbourne.

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