‘..while always remaining constant to my conviction about truth to material, I have found a greater freedom for myself.’ Barbara Hepworth, 1968
The Hepworth Wakefield presents a new exhibition that offers unprecedented insight into the latest years in the life and work of Yorkshire-born artist Barbara Hepworth. A must-see for any fans of Hepworth’s work or those looking to learn more about the artist, the exhibition will complement the major Barbara Hepworth retrospective at Tate Britain this summer.
A Greater Freedom follows artistic developments in Hepworth’s later years, focusing on the last decade of the sculptor’s life from 1965 – 1975. Showcasing an exciting period in Hepworth’s career and her determination to remain consistently inventive and ambitious, A Greater Freedom examines the legacy of one of the UK’s most famous artists.
Hepworth was extremely prolific during her later years, with Alan Bowness (Director of the Tate Gallery 1980-1988) noting that Hepworth made nearly as many works during the 1960s as the four decades from 1925 until 1960. These later works show Hepworth experimenting with new materials, working in bronze from the late 1950s, slate from 1962 and print-making from 1969.
The international acclaim and recognition that came from representing Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1952, winning the Grand Prix at the Sao Paulo Biennial of 1959 and her commission to create Single Form for the United Nations in the early 1960s, afforded Hepworth opportunities to explore new ideas and processes. She used diverse materials to explore and develop forms that had been present in her work from the early 1930s, stating in 1971, ‘I don’t think anyone realises how much the last ten years has been a fulfilment of my youth’. For example, Hepworth was only able to realise the ambitious marble carvings she conceived years earlier after the Second World War, once previously prohibitively expensive materials became affordable.
Hepworth’s interest in exhibition design was also significantly developed in her later years. In particular, Hepworth introduced new methods of displaying installations of her work, following the outdoor exhibition of her work at the Rietveld Pavilion at the Kröller-Müller Museum in 1965, in which Hepworth displayed her sculptures on breezeblock plinths. Subsequently, Hepworth used this technique in her 1968 Tate retrospective, mounting works on breezeblock plinths with the addition of houseplants, bringing outside into the gallery space. These elements now seem very current, prescient of contemporary installations and A Greater Freedom will reconstruct these designs featuring work included in the 1968 exhibition, highlighting the ingenuity of Hepworth not only in her work but also the techniques involved in displaying it.