Join our mailing list


Assistant Curator, Victoria Howarth, delves inside our December book of the month, Penelope Curtis’ British Artists: Barbara Hepworth. 

Barbara Hepworth
RRP: £14.99 (10% off for Jerwood Gallery Members)

Tate’s British Artists series offers wonderfully accessible introductions to some of the greatest figures in British art.  This book, focusing on the work and life of Barbara Hepworth, also explores the critical history and current contexts in which her art can be understood.  Penelope Curtis discusses the difficulty of finding a representative work to sum up or represent Hepworth’s output: ‘when we look through all the works she made, it is surprisingly hard to find that ‘typical’ piece…it becomes all too easy to divide her career up into neat little parcels, and to forget the consistency that runs throughout.’  

Curtis argues that throughout her artistic career, Hepworth was making an attempt at ‘holding the beautiful thought’.  Hepworth’s response to what she described as the madness and disease in the world was to make ‘as many good sculptures as one can before one dies’.

The book is divided into four chapters: Barbara Hepworth, A Life; The Work; A Critical History; and Current Contexts. There are 60 colour illustrations and a number of black and white archive photographs of lost works, beautifully illuminating each chapter. Although Hepworth began her artistic life in London as part of the avant-garde modern movement, it was her time spent in St Ives that I most enjoyed reading about.  Hepworth made nearly 600 works, and spent 36 of her 50 working years in St Ives.

The significance of the town on her artistic development and ability to carry on working through difficult times is beautifully captured in her Pictorial Autobiography (quoted in Curtis’ book): ‘I am so fortunate here to have a garden and space and buildings where I can make such a mess and be tolerated. And so one isn’t an oddity, but just another chap rushing out in overalls to buy some more files at the nearest shop. St Ives has absolutely enraptured me, not merely for its beauty, but the naturalness of life…the sense of community is, I think, a very important factor in an artist’s life.’ 

Our current exhibition Horizons: Kettles Yard at Jerwood Gallery features five works by Barbara Hepworth, including a lithograph, oil painting, two ink drawings and a sculpture.  These will be on display in Jerwood Gallery Room 4 until Sunday 3rd January 2016.

Jerwood Gallery shop is open whenever the gallery is open and don’t forget, you can visit the shop anytime for free, without visiting the gallery.
02 December, 2015
Written by Victoria Howarth