Barbara Hepworth was an English abstract sculptor who’s widely considered one of the mid-20th century’s most impactful sculptors. Her work epitomizes the modernism style, raising her to an international prominence that was at the time rare for female English sculptors.
To celebrate Hepworth’s art and career, Google created an animated Doodle in her honor on the anniversary of her 1939 move to St. Ives, a town on England’s southern coast, where she would become a leading figure in the colony of artists who resided there.
Born in Wakefield, England, on Jan. 10, 1903, Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth decided at the age of 15 that she wanted to become a sculptor. She began her training at the Leeds School of Art in 1920 before transferring her studies the next year to the Royal College of Art, where she was awarded a diploma in 1924. It was at Leeds that she met fellow sculptor Henry Moore, with whom she would have a lifelong friendship and become leading figures in Modernism.
Hepworth’s focus on abstract art flourished in the early 1930s. She was the first to sculpt the pierced figures that would become characteristic of her work. As demonstrated in Google’s Doodle, she would become a leading figure in “direct carving,” a process that favors a spontaneous approach in which the sculpture’s form is determined during carving rather than from a preconceived model.
Her sensitive, organic approach was revolutionary, producing more than 600 sculptures of elegance, refinement and taste.
Hepworth was awarded the Grand Prix at the 1959 São Paulo Bienal, was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1965 for her contribution to British art.
She died in 1975 at the age of 72 in a fire at the St. Ives studio where she was living.