The barbaric and magical Eidos of Barbara Hepworth

barbara hepworth - eidosEnglish artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth was born on 10th January, 1903 in Wakefield, West Riding, Yorks.  She attended Wakefield Girls’ High School and won a scholarship in 1920 to Leeds School of Art. It was there that she met and established a friendship with fellow student, Henry Moore where both established a path to modernism in sculpture.

In 1921, Hepworth commenced a Diploma of Art at the Royal College of Art (RCA) which she graduated from three years later. Following her studies at the RCA, she travelled to Florence on a West Riding Travel Scholarship.  She was the runner-up for the Prix-de-Rome, which fellow sculptor John Skeaping won and the two married the following year in Florence, on 13th May, 1925.

  • Hepworth and Skeaping returned to London in 1926, where they exhibited their works together from their flat and Hepworth gave birth to their son Paul three years later in 1929.

Four years later, in 1933, Hepworth travelled to France with Ben Nicholson, where they visited the studios of Jean Arp, Pablo Picasso and Constantin Brâncuşi.  They became involved with the Paris-based art movement, Abstraction-Création and co-founded the Unit One art movement with the artists Paul Nash, Herbert Read and the architect, Wells Coates.  Hepworth and Nicholson ended up marrying on the 17th November, 1938 at the Hampstead Register Office, following his divorce from his wife Winifred and hers from Skeaping.  Sadly she and Nicholson divorced in 1951.

Barbara Hepworth died in an accidental fire at her Trewyn studios on 20th May, 1975 at the age of 72.  Following her death, her studio and home in St. Ives became the Barbara Hepworth Museum, which came under control of the Tate Britain in 1980.

Various accolades include:

  • The Grand Prix at the Sāo Paolo Bienal (1959)
  • Freedom of St. Ives award  (1968)
  • Honorary degrees from Birmingham (1960), Leeds (1961), Exeter (1966), Oxford (1968), London (1970), and Manchester (1971)
  • Appointed CBE (1958) and DBE (1965)
  • Honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1973)

The above image: Eidos (1947) is made from stone and synthetic polymer paint. After moving to Cornwall during WW2, Hepworth reintroduced landscape as a theme in her work. She described this landscape as ‘barbaric and magical’ and the pierced spaces seen in Eidos are references to the forms seen in the rugged Cornish coast.

As a total contrast, it would appear that Hepworth’s Eidos has become her Ethos.

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4 Responses to The barbaric and magical Eidos of Barbara Hepworth

  1. I love Hepworth – she is without doubt my favourite 20C sculptor.
    Her studio and sculpture garden in St Ives is the most magical place to visit. It is wonderful to see children clambering over the sculptures.
    Did you know that she was the first artist to create a hole in sculpture – a year before Henry Moore did?

    • maryannadair says:

      Now that’s quite interesting.

    • maryannadair says:

      No I didn’t but I guess it’s probably not that surprising, since they both trained at the Leeds School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, London; sharing a fascination with direct carving. But it is also something that should be not only acknowledge, but celebrated.

  2. What a helpful precis of Barbara Hepworth’s life and work.

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