Sunday, 19 July 2015

Barbara Hepworth - Tate Britain

Barbara Hepworth, Three Forms, 1935
Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World is at Tate Britain until 25 October 2015.
Barbara Hepworth forged a distinctive sculptural style drawing both on influences from European Modernism (Picasso, Brancusi, Arp) and her deeply personal response to the landscapes of Yorkshire and Cornwall. She achieved international renown - cemented by the installation of Single Form outside the United Nations HQ in New York in 1964. Her achievement is the more remarkable for being (I think) the only female, British sculptor of any note in the first half of the twentieth century. Her reputation is secure - and, indeed, her best work (eg Pelagos) offers marvellously resolved and moving aesthetic form. However, this exhibition has been received with generally luke warm reviews - not so much in terms of Hepworth's aesthetic achievement (though there are sceptical voices - "Was Barbara Hepworth a giant of modern sculpture - or a dreary relic of post-war Britain?" - Martin Gayford in The Spectator) but with respect to the Tate's display - "cramped, frustrating, weirdly selected and badly displayed" - Laura Cumming in The Observer. There seems to be a consensus that the essence of Hepworth's sculpture is in its organic relationship with the landscape and that it lives and breathes in the open air, yet it is here being suffocated in artificially lit galleries and in vitrines.
Nevertheless, this is an opportunity to reassess her significance - and to do so alongside concurrent examinations of two other giants of British Modernist sculpture: see also entries for Henry Moore at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Anthony Caro, also at the YSP and at the Wakefield gallery named for her - The Hepworth.
Read features by Tim Adams and Sarah Crompton and reviews by Laura CummingAlastair Sooke, Jonathan Jones, Jackie Wullschlager, Martin Gayford.
Barbara Hepworth working on the plaster of Single Form 1963; the completed bronze stands in the grounds of the UN headquarters in New York
Barbara Hepworth, Large and Small Form, 1934
Barbara Hepworth, Mother and Child, 1934
Barbara Hepworth, Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red), 1943
Barbara Hepworth, Pelagos, 1946
Barbara Hepworth, Corinthos, 1954-5
Barbara Hepworth, Curved Form (Trevalgan), 1956
Barbara Hepworth, Squares with Two Circles, 1963
Barbara Hepworth, Hollow Form with White, 1965

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