Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures at the Heide Museum of Modern Art in Melbourne, Australia, through March 13, 2023

Exhibition view. Photo: Christian Cappuro

First major Australian survey of the leading figure of modernist sculpture in Britain in the 20th century

The Heide Museum in Melbourne, Australia, sent us the following press release:

Heide Museum of Modern Art presents the first major survey in Australia of the celebrated British artist Dame Barbara Hepworth DBE (1903–1975). A leading figure of modernist sculpture in Britain in the 20th century, Hepworth is best known for her organic abstract sculptures and pioneering method of ‘piercing’ the form. Presented at Heide through March 13, 2023, the exhibition “Barbara Hepworth: In Equilibrium“ brings together more than 40 works from significant international and national collections.

A key figure of mid-century avant-garde European art, Hepworth’s pioneering practice enriched the language of modern sculpture. While the artist’s early works featured figurative and naturalistic forms, her sculptures would become increasingly simplified and abstract.

Barbara Hepworth, “Corinthos”, 1954-1955, guarea wood and paint on wooden base, 104.1 x 106.7 x 101.6 cm. Photo: Christian CappuroBarbara Hepworth, “Eidos“, 1947, stone, synthetic polymer paint,37.2 x 50.7 x 28.2 cm. Photo: Christian Cappuro

Highlighted in the exhibition is Hepworth’s significant exploration of the interplay between mass and space and her dynamic opening up of the interior of the work to make space into a form in itself. This technique of ‘piercing’ the form exemplifies Hepworth’s revolutionary contribution to the development of new sculptural vocabularies that influenced not only her contemporaries, but future generations of sculptors.

Central to Hepworth’s practice was the influence of nature, with the artist inspired by the coastal landscape of St Ives in Cornwall, where she lived and worked for much of her career. From the movement of tides to the ancient standing stones of west Cornwall, the artist’s later sculptures are grounded in references to patterns and forms found in nature.

Exhibition view. Photo: Clythie Meredith

Heide Museum of Modern Art Head Curator Kendrah Morgan said: “A true innovator, Barbara Hepworth’s contribution to the evolution of modern sculpture cannot be underestimated. Her combination of reductive form, timeless materials and a humanist vision is compelling and enduring.” Heide has enlisted award-winning Melbourne-based architecture practice Studio Bright to design the exhibition.

Exhibition view. Photo: Clythie Meredith

Lesley Harding, museum’s Artistic Director, said: “The exhibition reflects our commitment to foregrounding modernist women artists, and is the result of extensive research and support from national and international organisations and the Hepworth Estate, as well as the assistance of many Heide benefactors.”

About Barbara Hepworth
The doyenne of modernist sculpture, Barbara Hepworth (born 1903 Wakefield, Yorkshire, died 1975 St Ives, Cornwall) was one of the leading British artists of her generation and the first woman sculptor to achieve international recognition. She worked predominantly in stone, wood, marble and bronze and was an early practitioner of the avant-garde method of direct carving, which dispensed with the tradition of preparatory models or maquettes. Her works were among the earliest abstract sculptures produced in England.

Barbara Hepworth at work on “Eidos“, 1947-48. © Bowness

In the 1920s Hepworth studied at the Leeds School of Art where she befriended fellow sculpture student Henry Moore, initiating a lifelong friendship and rivalry which influenced the development of both their careers. Hepworth married twice, first to sculptor John Skeaping, and later to the painter Ben Nicholson, from 1938 to 1951. Hepworth was a central figure in a network of major international abstract artists and closely linked with the School of Paris. From the outbreak of the Second World War she was based in the creative community of St Ives, Cornwall, where she drew much inspiration from the natural environment around her. Though concerned with form and abstraction, Hepworth created work that was predominantly about relationships: between the human figure and the landscape; between forms presented side-by-side; between colour and texture; and between individuals and groups of people.

Heide Museum of Modern Art

(26.01.2023, USA: 01.26.2023)