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Celebrating 60 years of Barbara Hepworth's Winged Figure

20 Apr 2023

60 years ago, on Sunday 21 April 1963, Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, Winged Figure, was unveiled on the side of John Lewis, Oxford Street, London.

Hepworth was a great admirer of the socialist ethos of John Lewis, a shop that was collectively owned by its workers, and she was attracted by the prominence of the site. The design was praised for embodying ‘the idea of resurgence or aspiration… long associated with the Partnership’.The full-scale prototype for the sculpture, on permanent display at The Hepworth Wakefield, is nearly six metres tall and is the only full-size working model of Hepworth’s monumental commissions to survive. Winged Figure forms the centrepiece of the collection of working models gifted by the Hepworth family through the Art Fund. The Hepworth Family Gift comprises 44 surviving prototypes in plaster, aluminium and wood, as well as drawings, lithographs and screen prints. Hepworth did not see the prototypes as works of art, but as the first stage in the process of casting a bronze or aluminium work .

Of Winged Figure, Hepworth said in 1963:

“I think one of our universal dreams is to move in air and water without the resistance of our human legs. I wanted to evoke this sense of freedom.  If the Winged Figure in Oxford Street gives people a sense of being airborne in rain and sunlight and nightlight I will be very happy.  It is a project I have long wished to fulfil and this site with its wonderful oblique wall was quite perfect.”