For Students

Past Exhibitions: 2003

Hepworth at 100

November22, 2003–March 14, 2004
Museum Apse

Barbara Hepworth, Sphere with Colour (Grey and White)
Barbara Hepworth
(British, 1903 -1975)
Sphere with Colour (Grey and White)
Swedish green marble and paint
Museum Purchase, 1967/1.43

With this exhibition, the University of Michigan Museum of Art celebrates the centennial of the birth of internationally renowned British sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975). To our knowledge, this is the only such commemoration by an American museum. It is a great pleasure to be able to bring to the public eight important and rarely seen works by the artist, made available to the Museum through the generosity of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, a private southeast Michigan collection. Also included in the exhibition is the Museum's own seminal piece, Sphere with Colour (Grey and White).

Born on January 10, 1903, in Wakefield, England, Barbara Hepworth was at the center of a group of artists who created a revolutionary new approach to European abstract sculpture during the 1930s. She was one of the first artists to make completely nonrepresentational works that somehow never lacked a human significance, often referring to relationships between people. Her work developed steadily toward organic, abstract shapes with a powerful sense of being.

Beginning as a carver of wood and stone, Hepworth showed the influence of sculptors Georges Braque, Hans Arp, and Constantin Brancusi in her early work. In the 1930s she introduced the novel idea of piercing her sculpture, a concept that was to have a profound impact on many of her contemporaries, including sculptor Henry Moore, whom she met at the Leeds School of Art in 1920. In the course of her career, Hepworth stretched these pierced openings into oval and spiral shapes, which became an important signature. An insistence upon an intimate, tactile relationship with her material is another hallmark of her work.

Two Forms with White (Greek)

Two Forms with White (Greek)
Bronze, ed. of 7
The Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art

In 1956 Hepworth began casting in bronze, a method that not only allowed for small editions of multiples to be created from a modeled or carved original, but which also permitted her work to take on a monumental scale and to be placed outdoors in contact with nature and larger numbers of people. This signaled a new phase in her career, one marked by numerous awards and public commissions, most notably, perhaps, Single Form (1961-64), which was commissioned for the United Nations building in New York as a memorial to U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskj^ld, who had become a close friend. During the 1960s and 1970s, Hepworth revisited earlier forms, sometimes casting earlier, fragile slate or marble works in bronze. This retrospective phase inspired the artist to create a completely new series of forms, examples of which are reflected in the nine works included in this exhibition, dating from 1963 to 1974, a remarkably rich and creative period in Barbara Hepworth's career. In 1975, Hepworth died, tragically, in a fire that broke out in her studio in St. Ives, Cornwall.

Hepworth at 100 is the first exhibition in a series examining the work of three of the most significant women artists of the twentieth century. Future Apse installations will feature the of work Agnes Martin (born 1912) and Helen Frankenthaler (born 1928).

Sean M. Ulmer
University Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

This exhibition is made possible by TIAA-CREF.


Additional support has been provided by the Friends of the Museum of Art and Beverley Geltner. Support for educational programs has been provided by the University of Michigan's Institute for the Humanities and Department of the History of Art.