Barbara Hepworth at St Albans Museum

Turning Forms: The Marlborough Science Academy, St Albans.

There is a beautifully curated exhibition currently on at St Albans Museum. It is a small collection of Barbara Hepworth’s scultpures created between 1948 – 1953, when Hepworth spent some time in Hertfordshire. The exhibition is called an ‘Artist in Society’ – an expression used by Hepworth to describe herself as she was interested in social groupings and the role of the artist within communities. It is why she donated pieces of her work to local schools – one of which can be found at the entrance my son’s school at The Marlborough Science Academy, St Albans. The exhibition runs until September 2019 and I highly recommend a visit.

Although this exhibition focuses on a relatively short time in her career, this exhibition leads visitors to understand extent of her work and that Hepworth worked all the time! She began creating in the 1920s when she was studying at the Royal Academy of Arts and continued until she died in 1975. She created over 600 pieces of work.

This exhibition has some beautiful pieces. One piece which has many visitors stop in their tracks is called Madonna and Child. It is a work Hepworth created as a memorial to her son’s death from a plane crash while serving in the RAF in 1953. The simple shape forming a mother and her child is moving and evokes strong emotions.

Most of the pieces in this exhibition are smaller works although a few are over five feet in height. It wasn’t until 1966 that Hepworth began working on larger pieces, including the piece called ‘Single Form’ unveiled outside the UN Secretariat buildings in the 1960s.

There is a plethora of books on Hepworth’s work but one I found particularly intriguing is ‘Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations‘. In this book Hepworth speaks using her own words and she is eloquent and a natural communicator. Reading this book, I understood her sources of inspiration and her innate desire to communicate this inspiration.

She once said, “The sculptor carves because he must.” And this inner drive is prevalent throughout her work.

On until the 8th September – an exhibition not to be missed.

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