Dame Barbara Hepworth British, 1903-1975
Barbara Hepworth was born in West Riding of Yorkshire, England in 1903. The daughter of a civil engineer, she had a gift for mathematics and familiarity with her father's technical drawings. She won a scholarship to the Leeds School of Art at age sixteen where she studied with Henry Moore, and completed the two-year program in half the time. Her formal art education continued for a three-year period at the Royal College of Art, London under the honour of a senior scholarship.
By 1924, Barbara Hepworth was a finalist in the Prix de Rome where she met her future husband, John Skeaping. The couple lived in and travelled Italy, eventually marrying at the Palazzo Vecchio. It was in Rome where Barbara Hepworth trained in sculpture with master stone carvers.
Barbara Hepworth returned to England in 1926 to exhibit her work jointly with her husband in their shared studio, and then in a solo exhibition at the Beaux Arts Gallery in 1928. She joined a small group of pioneer sculptors who were committed to abstraction, with whom she developed her more mature style marked by organic abstraction and innovative use of various media including string, wire and coloured paint.
In 1931, Barbara Hepworth divorced and two years later married the avant-garde painter Ben Nicholson, beginning a personal and professional relationship that would span two decades. By the 1950's Hepworth's reputation grew tremendously. Her work was featured at the Venice Biennial and won the top prize at the Sao Paulo Biennial. Additionally, she held her first major retrospective exhibition, which contributed to the honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, receiving the rank of Dame in 1965.
Barbara Hepworth spent the late part of her life confined to a wheelchair. She died in her studio in 1975 as a result of a fire. The studio was later rehabilitated and opened as a museum in 1976.