‘The whole of this Yorkshire background means more to me as the years have passed. I draw on these early experiences not only visually in texture and contour, but humanly. 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. This paradox expressed for me most forcibly the fundamental and ideal unity of man with nature which I consider to be one of the basic impulses of sculpture.’ Barbara Hepworth, 1952
In 2015, The Hepworth Wakefield will present a duo of exhibitions to coincide with the major Barbara Hepworth retrospective at Tate Britain. The shows will look at Hepworth’s early and later years respectively, providing context to the emergence and legacy of one of the UK’s most famous artists.
Hepworth in Yorkshire will focus on Hepworth’s early years growing up in Wakefield, exhibiting publicly for the first time family photographs and images of Hepworth’s formative years.
Early drawings, paintings and sculpture, which show Hepworth’s natural gifts in these areas, will also be on display. During this time Hepworth was engaging with an academic figurative style that she would soon depart from to find her own artistic voice. The display also features newspaper articles and photography that document her early successes.
Hepworth herself asserted that the experience of growing up in Yorkshire was hugely influential on her work. This is reflected in the series of photographs she commissioned of the Yorkshire landscape in 1964, taken by photographer Lee Sheldrake, which are also exhibited.
In addition to the two exhibitions, The Hepworth Wakefield is home to the Hepworth Family Gift, a remarkable collection that is central to the gallery’s permanent collection. It consists of 44 of Hepworth’s surviving working models for her bronze sculptures (the majority of which were made in plaster) alongside tools and materials drawn from her second studio in St Ives, the Palais de Danse.
Simon Wallis, Director of The Hepworth Wakefield said: ‘We look forward to offering our visitors two new exhibitions that explore new areas of Barbara Hepworth’s life and work as one of Britain’s most significant artists. We will be examining her earliest years in Wakefield and her lifelong connection to the Yorkshire landscape, as well as presenting sculptures and drawings from the final decade of her career, which saw Hepworth at her most prolific. Together with the permanent display of the Hepworth Family Gift - which features 44 of her working models, tools and archives relating to the major commissions for the United Nations and John Lewis Partnership - we have a wonderful offer to complement Tate’s Hepworth retrospective.’
Dr Sophie Bowness, Hepworth’s granddaughter, art historian and a Trustee of the Hepworth Estate said: ‘The Hepworth Wakefield's pair of early and late Hepworth exhibitions promise to be the perfect complement to Tate Britain's major survey, opening in June. The work of the final decade of Hepworth's life is often overlooked and Wakefield's display will feature a beautiful selection of sculpture in a variety of media, alongside her paintings and prints, and will evoke the installations of the period. A highlight will be a group of the late carvings in marble, a material that had special significance for Hepworth and that she gave particular emphasis to in her final years.’