Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life

To mark The Hepworth Wakefield's ten year anniversary, the gallery is hosting the largest ever exhibition of Barbara Hepworth’s work since her death in 1975.

Jamie Taylor, Digital Editor

Cast your mind back to 2011. Do you remember what made that year so special? Was it England finally winning the Ashes in Australia? Perhaps it was the Royal Wedding of William and Kate? Or maybe, just maybe, you remember something exciting happening in a quiet corner of West Yorkshire. For in that year, on 11th May, The Hepworth Wakefield welcomed its first visitor and Wakefield changed forever.

To mark its ten year anniversary, the gallery is hosting Barbara Hepworth: Art and Life, the largest ever exhibition of Hepworth’s work since her death in 1975. For the first time, all of The Hepworth’s galleries are devoted to their namesake’s work.

Installation image of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at The Hepworth Wakefield, 2021. Photograph by Lewis Ronald (Plastiques)

Hepworth Wakefield, 2021. Artwork. Photography by Joanne Crawford

Barbara Hepworth is one of Britain’s best loved artists. A rebel at heart, she shook up the art world with her genre-breaking sculptures inspired by her love of music, dance and the human body.

Hepworth was born in Wakefield at the turn of the twentieth century and lived through immense technological and societal change. Her fascination with science, medicine and space exploration can all be seen in her work. Her art is deeply personal and through her drawings and sculptures, Hepworth grapples with politics and religion – drawing on her own experiences as a woman, a mother and a wife.

There’s plenty to see here and enough to keep both newcomers and aficionados busy for hours. This extravaganza of an exhibition features many of her greatest hits, with sculptures such as Turning Forms and Spring nestling alongside the truly monumental prototype for Winged Figure which was commissioned for the John Lewis headquarters in London.

Installation image of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life at The Hepworth Wakefield, 2021. Photograph by Lewis Ronald (Plastiques)

Hepworth Wakefield, 2021. Artwork. Photography by Joanne Crawford

If sculpture isn’t your thing, there’s still lots here to enjoy. Highlights of the show include Hepworth’s early sketches made while still a schoolgirl in Wakefield and her hospital drawings, which were inspired by watching a surgeon treat her daughter for a bone infection. There’s even a series of prints (available in the gift shop) inspired by the 1969 moon landing.

The great thing about Barbara Hepworth: Art and Life is that you don’t need to know anything about art to enjoy it. Hepworth’s work is stunning and can be simply enjoyed as a collection of beautiful objects. If you want to dig a little deeper into the ideas behind them, the exhibition text panels tell the story of her life without any waffle. You leave having learned something new and with an appreciation of why she was such a great artist.

Hepworth Wakefield, 2021. Photography by Joanne Crawford

Hepworth Wakefield, 2021. Photography by Joanne Crawford

If you want to bring the kids along there’s plenty for them to do. The Hepworth has put together an activity pack that is full of games inspired by Hepworth’s art. The galleries have plenty of space and you needn’t be worried about bringing the buggy. Everything is super accessible, with lifts up to the first floor and refundable lockers available to store coats and bags. If all else fails, you can always retire to the café where an excellent slice of cake can be found.

The exhibition runs until 27 February 2022 and is a perfect way to while away a pleasant afternoon with friends and family. Entrance charges apply, although the exhibition is free for gallery members, Wakefield residents, and under 16’s, check the website for details.