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Understanding Hepworth sculptures

Posted on 2 September 2021

The History of Art department is playing a key role in a research network formed to develop a complete understanding of the material practices used by the great Yorkshire-born sculptor, Barbara Hepworth.

Barbara Hepworth working on the armature of Single Form in the Palais de Danse, St Ives, 1961. Photograph by Studio St Ives. Barbara Hepworth © Bowness

The Hepworth Research Network (HRN) brings together art historians, conservators, artists, and curators, enabling interdisciplinary conversations to increase our understanding of the tangible aspects of the artist’s work, and her approaches to creating, displaying and maintaining it.

Professor Michael White was involved in setting up the Network. He explains its strength is its focus on the physical creation of, and changes over time to the fabric of Hepworth’s works, features that have often been overlooked in interpretations of her art from the perspective of its abstractness.

He said: “One of the ideas behind this group is to consider these works as objects in a more complete way and the key to that is bringing together these four groups.

“Barbara Hepworth is the focus because The Hepworth Wakefield has an exceptional collection not just of finished sculptures but preparatory items, tools and notebooks and correspondence - which gives us unique insight into the artist’s techniques.”

Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the HRN brings together the University of York’s Department of History of Art, the University of Huddersfield's School of Art and Humanities, and the Hepworth Wakefield and is currently scheduled to run until 2022.

Find out more about the Hepworth Research Network