At home with Barbara Hepworth, St Ives
Walking into Barbara Hepworth’s former home and garden is little spooky: tools are poised for action, cats wander through with familiarity and smocks of shadowy hues hang waiting to be worn again. The monumental statues in the garden have a physical presence, peopling the semi-tropical garden designed by Hepworth herself. Something tangible remains and the pull of the place is irresistible.
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culture, beautiful gardens, evocative and spiritual sculpture
01736 796 226
Barnoon Hill, St. Ives
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Hepworth spent half of her life in St Ives (1949-1975), which she referred to as “her spiritual home” and it contains the biggest collection of her life’s work. She describes finding Trewyn studios (now the museum) as: “a sort of magic … where she could work in open air and space.” And that is exactly what she did. The magic remains and the divide between covered space and open space is ambiguous: the garden is as much a living room furnished with giant tropical plants and sculptures as it is an outdoor area. Four-Square Walk Through is interactive and dominant, with the square edges setting off the more rounded feminine sculptures such as Four Sphere With Inner Form.
The dramatic coastline of West Penwith and prehistoric standing stones and quoits of the area have seeped into her work: it is punctuated with dramatic holes that express both absence as well as an invitation to participate. The rugged landscape is mirrored in the texture of her pieces and you will find your hand drawn to pebble smooth surfaces and rough corners like a naughty child. She loved the physicality and primacy of carving, dividing her hands into two categories: the right for motor skills and the left for thinking and listening to the silent rhythms. The museum and garden are clearly a ‘left-handed’ expression of her artistry, the garden in particular, which invites quiet contemplation as well as an uncontrollable urge to live there immediately.
Watch out for key themes in her work such as: the single standing form; two forms tenderly combined and ‘threes’, a particular theme that developed after she gave birth to triplets. The Artist’s Hand is also a powerful piece expressing both the delicacy and physical strength of carving. Also worth noting are her ‘sheep’ – the affectionate term she used to describe the blocks of marble that would arrive in her workshop and for each of which she had a clear vision, even before the chiselling began. An unmissable, memorable and unique insight into one of the 20th century’s greatest sculptresses who was also a key driving force in the development of the now world-renowned art scene of St Ives.