Barbara Hepworth (Barbara Hepworth)

Barbara Hepworth

Sculptor.  She was the leading British woman sculptor of the 20th century.  She was the eldest of four children and the daughter of a civil engineer who lived and worked in the West Riding of Yorkshire. She had a gift for mathematics, and her closeness to her father and his work familiarized her with technical drawings.  At the age of sixteen she won a scholarship to the Leeds School of Art, where Henry Moore was studying.  Instead of doing the compulsory two years at the school she fitted the course into a single year, and went to the Royal College of Art in 1921 on a senior scholarship.  There she spent three years, and in 1924 was a finalist for the Prix de Rome and runner up to John Skeaping, her future husband.  Despite her failure to win the prize, a grant from the West Riding enabled her to live and travel in Italy for a year.  She returned to London in November 1926, and in December of the following year she and Skeaping held a joint exhibition. During this early period in London Hepworth was in frequent contact with Henry Moore, with whom she had been a student, both at Leeds and at the Royal College, and in 1930 and 1931 the two sculptors formed part of a group holidaying on the Norfolk coast.  The second of these vacations brought Hepworth close to Ben Nicholson, who was also a member of the party, and in that year she went to live with him.  They later married and had triplets – two daughters and a son – in November 1934. In 1939 they moved to St Ives, where they remained for more than a decade, and Hepworth was to settle there permanently. Her marriage to Ben Nicholson was dissolved in 1951, and in 1953 her first child, Paul Skeaping, who had become an aircraft designer and professional pilot, was killed in an air crash over Siam.  She was made Commander of the British Empire in 1958. In 1964 she was diagnosed with cancer, and the following year, was appointed a Trustee of the Tate Gallery in London.  She was also made Dame Commander of the British Empire, which marked her acceptance by the British artistic establishment.  Her final years were beset by increasing ill health; eventually she had to take to a wheelchair.  She died as the result of a fire in her studio, believed caused by a cigarette setting light to her bedclothes.  The studio itself was opened as a museum in 1976.

(bio by: julia&keld)


  • January, 10, 1903
  • England


  • May, 05, 1975
  • England


  • Longstone Cemetery
  • Cornwall
  • England

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