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A white anemone in Wakefield grew in Barbara Hepworth’s own garden in St Ives

22 Oct 2021

Famous for flowering in the autumn, Japanese anemones have been in bloom at The Hepworth Wakefield for the past few weeks. Several of our garden visitors have spoken to us about their memories of having also seen these plants flowering in St Ives, at Barbara Hepworth’s own garden, which is now the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.

As the Cornish coast has a much milder climate than Hepworth’s birthplace of Wakefield, our two gardens do not share many plant varieties and so it has been exciting for us to discover that we have this late-flowering perennial in common with the beautiful space where Hepworth herself gardened – the space where she worked to carve some of the sculptures currently on show in our exhibition Art & Life.

Whilst the parent species of these anemones would be found growing in habitats in Eastern Asia, our white-flowered cultivar, Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, was discovered in the 1850s, in the home garden of Madame Jobert, in north-eastern France and it was introduced to the market by the celebrated nurseryman Victor Lemoine. Having been grown in gardens across Europe for such a long time, it is likely that it is the same variety, or a close relation to that which Barbara Hepworth enjoyed in her garden, and which still flower there today. Certainly, it is a plant which is renowned for its ability to spread with its rhizome-like roots when it is happy.

The airy white flowers of ‘Honorine Jobert’ complement Hepworth’s sculptures and when the light shines through the petals, the fine overlapping layers form new shapes of shade and contour. As the flower ages, the petals fall away, and the plant refines its seed head into a pleasing dimpled sphere.

As Barbara Hepworth once wrote, ‘If a pebble or an egg can be enjoyed for the sake of its shape only, it is one step towards a true appreciation of sculpture.’ [‘Contemporary English Sculptors’, The Architectural Association Journal, London, vol. XLV, no. 518, April 1930, p. 384].

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