“You know, England has usually been a very literary country, and a bit startled if it doesn’t have a story. Well, I like the story to be implicit in the work, and you make your own fantasy.” Barbara Hepworth
My first girlie holiday, when I was about 16 /17 was with school friends staying in one of their gran’s summerhouse in St Ives, Cornwall. Fortunately the summer was good (for once), and we spent days on the beach, and exploring the best that that St Ives has to offer. With a few of us studying art at the time we felt we could not leave without visiting the Tate Museum in St Ives (part of the London Tate gallery group).
Several years on (lets just say we are talking double figures), two things still stick out about the visit. Firstly the amazing bay window which overlooks St Ives Surf beach… very much like a moving piece of art in it’s own right, and secondly the sculpture and art work of Dame Barbara Hepworth and the visit to her sculptural sanctuary – The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculptural Gardens which are part of the Tate St Ives.
I am not going to give a full biography of Hepworth, (just hit on some of the links if you would like to read more about her extraordinary life), but as a summary British-born (1903-1975) sculptor Barbara Hepworth has been called one of the most outstanding artists of the 20th century. As with many women of her era, she never fully obtained the recognition that was bestowed on many of her male contemporaries such as fellow sculptor Henry Moore.
The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculptural Gardens
Unfortunately Hepworth died in a fire, thought to have been started by an unextinguished cigarette. One of her bequests was to leave her studio as a gallery for all to enjoy her work the way she wanted. For people to explore in the gardens and use their imagination. If you are ever in the area I strongly urge you to go and check it out… it is like a little step back in time with her studio pretty much as she left it…..
…….and a garden where you cannot do anything but relax and reflect. (images below are from tate.org.uk). Quite simply I think the one aspect I am in love with is the fact that many of her sculptures form a frame for you to look through and create your own pictures and experiences.
Whilst known predominantly for her sculpture, the first works that captured me was her studies of a surgeon and the story behind it… which I will relay.
Barbara Hepworth first `discovered’ the aesthetics of surgery through Norman Carpener, an Orthopaedic Surgeon in Exeter, who treated her daughter Sarah. The Capeners, who also had four young children, became close friends of the family, and in particular Barbara, whose sculpture Norman admired. Norman suggested that she should watch first hand an operation in a hospital, and Hepworth saw an analogy between the work of a sculptor and a surgeon which she captured in her work.
“I expected that I should dislike it; but from the moment when I entered the operating theatre I became completely absorbed by two things: first, the co-ordination between human beings all dedicated to the saving of a life, and the way that unity of idea and purpose dictated a perfection of concentration, movement, and gesture, and secondly by the way this special grace (grace of mind and body), induce a spontaneous space composition, an articulated and animated kind of abstract sculpture very close to what I had been seeking in my own work.”(‘Fenestration of the Ear (The Hammer)’ 1948 – Source tate.org.uk)Tibia Graft – Source wakefield.gov.uk