Barbara Hepworth is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and her organic sculptures have come to exemplify three-dimensional modernist art. Published at a time of increasing interest in her work, this biography moves beyond the traditional narratives of modernism to provide comprehensive insight into Hepworth’s remarkable life, work, and legacy.
In her lifetime, Hepworth was reproached for single-mindedness, with critics and commentators framing her work and demeanor as “cool and restrained.” Moreover, most exhibitions of her work in the twentieth century focused on Hepworth’s modernist abstract sculpture of the 1930s and its relation to her male contemporaries, leaving vast swathes of work overlooked, such as her largest and most significant public commission, the sculpture outside the UN building in New York.
This fully illustrated biography reflects Hepworth’s multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach, shedding new light on her interests in music, dance, poetry, contemporary politics, science, and technology. Author Eleanor Clayton uncovers Hepworth’s engagement with these fields through friends and networks and examines how they show up in Hepworth’s artistic practice, and how the artist synthesized seemingly conflicting disciplines and ideas into one coherent and inspirational philosophy of art and life.
The perfect companion to, and an extensive in-depth commentary upon, everything [in] the exhibition [that] is both an examination of some of the best of [Hepworth's] artworks and a spasmodic account of her life.
One can think of few women of [Hepworth's] generation who attempted…large-scale statement[s] in obdurate materials like stone and bronze, and fewer still who were honored with overviews of their work at major museums… Hepworth reaped a fair measure of celebrity throughout her long and fruitful career. She also…faced down the sexism endemic to her times… Ms. Clayton, a curator at the Hepworth Wakefield, the museum dedicated to the artist, is a competent chronicler and perceptive critic who often allows Hepworth to tell her own story through letters and journal excerpts. As the book's photos and reproductions of the works make clear, Hepworth was a powerful personality.
— The Wall Street Journal
Eleanor Clayton is curator at The Hepworth Wakefield and a Barbara Hepworth specialist. As a freelance writer on contemporary art, Clayton’s reviews and features have appeared in Frieze, Art Monthly, and The Burlington, among other periodicals. She is the editor and contributing author of Howard Hodgkin, Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain, and Viviane Sassen.