Categories: Arts & Heritage

View of the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden © Bowness. Photo © Kirstin Prisk

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden

Even if sculpture is not really your ‘thing’, a visit to the Barbara Hepworth Museum is one of the ‘must-see’ places on your visit to St Ives.

Hepworth was a talented sculptor, originally from Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Her studio and garden offers a magical oasis where her sculptures are displayed in their natural, intimate setting, along with a collection of all her tools, chisels, saws and hammers. There are also fine views over the rooftops of St Ives.

Hepworth’s life is as interesting as her art, so her living room is largely as she left it. She was one of the most important artists of the 20th century, learning to carve in Rome. She was later inspired by the natural, rugged landscape of the southwest and Cornwall in particular.

Interior view of the plaster workshop, Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden © Bowness. Photo © Rikard Österlund

The accomplished sculptor married artist, Ben Nicholson, in 1938; the couple inspired each other. They moved to Cornwall with their young family (she later gave birth to triplets, and also had a son from her first marriage) when the War started. She established her studio in 1949, the site of the current museum, a perfect light space in which to work. In her lifetime, she created more than 600 sculptures, a number of which adorn the sculpture garden. She is known for introducing the hole (or negative space) to the art form.

Her work is very much linked to her life, so a visit to her home and studio helps to understand the personal background to her immense creativity.


Interior view of the greenhouse, Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden © Bowness. Photo © Kirstin Prisk

Barbara Hepworth Conversation with Magic Stones 1973 © Bowness. Photo © Kirstin Prisk

Barbara Hepworth and Harold Nicholson divorced in 1951. She was left in charge of their children but also grew increasingly involved in the local modernist art movement, helping to bring St Ives to the global stage. She was awarded the Freedom of St Ives in 1968, to acknowledge her contribution to and impact on the town, and was also made a Bard of Cornwall in that year. She lived and worked in the Trewyn Studio until her sad death in a fire in 1975.

A fascinating woman whose work is revered, her studio/home is definitely a place to see.

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