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Three important Modern British artworks gifted to The Hepworth Wakefield

A sculpture by Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), a sculpture by Denis Mitchell (1912-1993) and a painting by William Scott CBE RA (1913-1989) will join Wakefield's art collection at The Hepworth Wakefield for the benefit of the nation through the Cultural Gifts Scheme, administered by the Arts Council.

The three works were owned by Nancy Balfour (1911-1997) – art collector and a senior editor at The Economist, who was Chairman and President of the Contemporary Art Society – and given to the public by her niece, Kate Ashbrook.

Hepworth’s Orpheus (Maquette 1), dated 1956, is a bronze sculpture on a wooden base. One of four ‘Orpheus’ works, three of which were editions, this sculpture is an early example of Hepworth’s move from carving predominantly in stone and wood, to including bronze and brass among her materials of choice. Stringed and shaped like a parabola, Orpheus (Maquette 1) may be an allusion to the lyre of the mythical musician.

Trevarrack by Denis Mitchell is a bronze sculpture dated 1961. Mitchell was Hepworth’s assistant from 1949 to 1959, and his work clearly shows her influence. Moving to St Ives at the age of eighteen in 1930, Mitchell became a key figure of the St Ives School.

Small Cornish Landscape by William Scott was painted circa 1953; Scott produced relatively few landscapes in Cornwall like this painting, concentrating mostly on still life. After spending a few months in Cornwall in 1935 and 1936, Scott returned in the early 1950s when the present picture was made. His landscapes from this time show an increased focus on abstraction, with blocks of colour beginning to overcome any sense of figure.

Arts Minister Helen Whately said: “I am delighted that, thanks to the Cultural Gifts Scheme and the generosity of the donor, The Hepworth Wakefield will benefit from three new brilliant works. Barbara Hepworth’s work will now join one of Britain’s major collections of modern art. Together with the Scott painting and Mitchell bronze, it will be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.”

Edward Harley OBE, Chairman, Acceptance in Lieu Panel said: “I am delighted that these three works should be brought into a public collection through the Cultural Gifts Scheme. Hepworth, Mitchell, and Scott were all pre-eminent British modernist artists, and it is fitting that their work should go to The Hepworth Wakefield, one of the foremost museums of modern British art in the UK. I hope that this example will encourage others to use the scheme and continue to support our national collections.”

The Cultural Gifts Scheme was launched by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport in March 2013 as an important element of its expanding programme to encourage philanthropy for the arts. The Acceptance in Lieu Panel, chaired by Edward Harley OBE, advises Ministers on all objects offered under the Cultural Gifts Scheme. The Scheme is administered by the Arts Council and enables UK taxpayers to donate important objects to the nation during their lifetime. Items accepted under the Scheme are allocated to public collections and are available for all. In return, donors will receive a reduction in their income tax, capital gains tax or corporation tax liability, based on a set percentage of the value of the object they are donating: 30 per cent for individuals and 20 per cent for companies.

Donor Kate Ashbrook said:

‘I am pleased that these striking and important works by British modernist artists have found a permanent home at The Hepworth Wakefield where they will complement the core collection. My aunt, Nancy Balfour – a commanding figure in the modern-art world – could have found no better place for them to live.’

Barbara Hepworth, Orpheus (Maquette 1) 1956 Photo: Studio St Ives © Bowness