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Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975)

Barbara Hepworth was primarily a sculptor.

She was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1903. Her father was a surveyor for West Riding County Council, and Hepworth accompanied him on his inspections of local roads and bridges. Barbara quite directly links aspects of her life with her work:

‘Perhaps what one wants to say is formed in childhood and the rest of one’s life is spent trying to say it. I know that all I felt during the early years of my life in Yorkshire is dynamic and constant in my life today.’

Barbara Hepworth


At Wakefield Girls’ High School Barbara was inspired by seeing images of ancient Egyptian sculptures and was encouraged by the headteacher, Miss McCroben, to apply for a scholarship to Leeds School of Art where she studied from 1920–1921. Whilst she was there, she became friends with Henry Moore.

Hieroglyph by Barbara Hepworth, a stone sculpture slightly wider at the top than the bottom, with movement lines upwards and four, unequal holes through the stone
Hieroglyph by Barbara Hepworth, 1968

She gained a bursary that enabled her to travel to Rome to learn carving skills from a master craftsman. Traditionally, a sculptor makes a model in clay to be either cast in metal or carved in stone by a master craftsman. Learning carving skills meant that Barbara could ‘direct carve’ in her chosen material.


Drawing showing showing four people sitting on a sofa. The man  is reading to three children with the book on his lap. From left to right there is a boy, the father, a girl holding a cat in her arms and another boy. The children are triplets aged around 7 years old. The drawing is done in red, blue and black.
The Poet Reading to his Children by Barbara Hepworth, 1948

She married, separated, found new love, had children and moved to St Ives, Cornwall.

During this time her work moved from representational forms, to geometric shapes and then encompassed strings or sculptural lines. Again, she related these changes to aspects of her personal life. The shift to geometric forms happened after the time of having her triplets, where she looked at the ‘relationships in space, in size and texture and weight, as well as in the tensions between the forms.’

The stringed forms started alongside the move to St Ives and ‘the tension I felt between myself and the sea, the wind or the hills.’

Both times, Barbara refers to ‘tension’.

What does ‘tension’ mean to you? Reflect on the spaces as well as the forms of a sculpture. What’s the relationship between the forms? Do they tell a story? As human beings, we see relationships between objects that are spatially related. Take two objects and put them on a surface. Move them around. Watch the light on them. See how they change if they are close together or far apart. This is also the process of curation within museums and galleries.