The Hepworth Family Gift consists of 44 full size, rarely seen working models – surviving prototypes in plaster and aluminium made in preparation for the works in bronze Hepworth executed from the mid-1950s to the end of her career. It also includes drawings and a large group of lithographs and screen prints by Barbara Hepworth, and has been given to The Hepworth Wakefield, via the Art Fund, by the artist’s daughters Rachel Kidd and Sarah Bowness, through the Trustees of the Barbara Hepworth Estate.
The Hepworth at Work display explores Hepworth’s studio environment, her work in plaster, her collaborative relationships with bronze foundries and the monumental commissions she received in the last fifteen years of her life. The tools and materials on display were Hepworth’s own and have been drawn from her second studio in St Ives, the Palais de Danse. Also featured is a step-by-step reconstruction of the bronze-casting process, photographs of works in progress and four specially commissioned films containing archival footage of the artist in her studio.
The gallery introduces The Hepworth Family Gift, a unique collection of Hepworth’s working models that is on permanent display at The Hepworth Wakefield. Representing the first stage of the creative process, they offer an invaluable insight into her art and, in particular, her approach to working with plaster.
The collection reflects the variety of ways in which Hepworth used plaster and aluminium. She preferred to make prototypes on the same scale as the finished sculptures and would have worked directly on the majority of these models.
The centrepiece of the Gift is the aluminium prototype for Winged Figure, 1961 – 3, the sculpture commissioned by John Lewis Partnership for their flagship store on Oxford Street, London. At nearly six metres high, this is the only working model to survive for the monumental commissions Hepworth received in later life.