New exhibition set to open at St Albans Museum + Gallery

PUBLISHED: 13:26 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 22 March 2019

Barbara Hepworth, Group III (Evocation), 1952, photograph by David Lambet Rod Tidnam. Courtesy of the Pier Arts Centre Collection.

Barbara Hepworth, Group III (Evocation), 1952, photograph by David Lambet Rod Tidnam. Courtesy of the Pier Arts Centre Collection.

photograph by David Lambet Rod Tidnam. Courtesy of the Pier Arts Centre Collection.

A new exhibition exploring the works of a hugely influential British artist is set to open in St Albans.

Barbara Hepworth and The Cosdon Head, 1949, Hans Wild. Picture: courtesy Sophie Bowness.Barbara Hepworth and The Cosdon Head, 1949, Hans Wild. Picture: courtesy Sophie Bowness.

St Albans Museum + Gallery is delighted to present Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53.

Introducing sculptures, drawings and archival material, the exhibition reunites works that have not been seen together since they were first created 70 years ago.

Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 shines light on an important period in Hepworth’s career immediately after the Second World War, when she began to receive wide recognition.

This poignant exhibition will be displayed in the hand-excavated Weston Gallery downstairs at St Albans Museum + Gallery from Saturday, March 23.

Barbara Hepworth piece Eocene. Picture: courtesy Sophie Bowness.Barbara Hepworth piece Eocene. Picture: courtesy Sophie Bowness.

It follows on from Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered, a recent touring exhibition from the V&A Museum of Childhood.

Councillor Annie Brewster, portfolio holder for sports and culture at St Albans Council, said: “The museum and gallery has not even been open for a year and yet it has brought so many great exhibitions, artworks and historic artefacts to St Albans.

“For us to be able to show an exhibition exploring the works of such a great British artist shows what a world-class museum it really is.

“I am so excited to see this new exhibition and I know everyone in the district will be too.”

Barbara Hepworth's 'Vertical Forms' is painstakingly removed from the University of Hertfordshire facade in Hatfield in advance of a major new exhibition of the artist's work at the St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: Joe FordhamBarbara Hepworth's 'Vertical Forms' is painstakingly removed from the University of Hertfordshire facade in Hatfield in advance of a major new exhibition of the artist's work at the St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: Joe Fordham

Produced by UHArts in partnership with St Albans Museum + Gallery, the exhibition will be displayed for six months and will be free for all visitors.

It is curated by Dr Sophie Bowness, Barbara Hepworth Estate, and Annabel Lucas, head of UHArts at Hatfield’s University of Hertfordshire.

Annabel Lucas said: “I am privileged to have worked with the esteemed Dr Sophie Bowness to develop this exhibition; whose deep understanding and intimate relationship with Hepworth’s life and work brings to our visitors a unique and poignant experience of an incredible British artist.”

This newly curated exhibition explores a time in Hepworth’s career when she viewed herself as an “artist in society”.

The phrase which forms the title of this exhibition is taken from the artist’s own writings and reflects her interest in social relations and groupings. It was a time when she was outward looking; both in her integration into the community of St Ives and growing national reputation.

Finding inspiration in the movement of people in various settings, the exhibition showcases Hepworth’s ability to capture the human form: from figures congregating in Venice’s St Mark’s Square and dancers in her new Trewyn studio, to medical teams performing operations at hospitals in Exeter and London.

On display until September 8, Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 includes over 100 fascinating objects, showcasing 20 significant works of different media, each shining new light on the celebrated artist’s craft and renewed focus on the human form during these pivotal five years.

The sculptures and drawings presented include loans from Tate Gallery, Hepworth Wakefield, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, British Council, University of Edinburgh, Whitworth Gallery (University of Manchester), Pier Art Centre, Herts County Council, and a number of private collectors.

Between 1948 and 1953, a connection between Hepworth and Hertfordshire was also formed through a number of sculptural purchases and commissions.

Two major sculptures commissioned for the Festival of Britain, Turning Forms and Contrapuntal Forms, were relocated to Hertfordshire when the festival ended.

A more intimate piece, Eocene, was acquired by Hertfordshire Schools Collection – currently displayed at St Albans Girls’ School.

And in 1951, Hepworth was commissioned to carve Vertical Forms for Hatfield Technical College, now the University of Hertfordshire.

This little known connection will be explored further in the exhibition.

As well as Hepworth’s connection to Hertfordshire, the exhibition will be the first to exhibit the sketch Three Figures – Project for Sculpture.

This piece was drawn ahead of the creation of Vertical Forms, and adds a new dimension to what we thought we knew about Hepworth’s process as an artist.

The exhibition is funded by Arts Council England, Henry Moore Foundation, the Contemporary Arts Practice Research Group School of Creative Arts, Porthmeor Fund and The Maltings, St Albans.

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