Barbara Hepworth

Helicoids in Sphere

"Hepworth was an artist of extraordinary stature whose importance is still to some extent occluded. Over 50 years, from 1925 to her death in 1975, she made more than 600 works of sculpture remarkable in range and emotional force. Her private life was complicated, at times traumatic: two marriages and four children, three of whom were triplets. And there was the long disruption of the war. What makes Hepworth wonderful was the strength of her ambition, the unswerving self-belief. She demonstrated so tangibly her understanding that "the dictates of work are as compelling for a woman as for a man"

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oval sculpture

Group of three magic stones

By the mid-1960s, her health was breaking down. Cancer of the tongue was diagnosed. A fall resulted in a fracture of the hip. From then on she was often seen walking with a stick. Hepworth worked on, gnarled and baleful, like a figure in a Greek tragedy. In those last years before her accidental death by fire in her own house, she returned to smaller carvings - to themes of myth and magic, to the gravitas and stillness that was so strong in her.