TOAST Magazine

The Hepworth Wakefield | Art at Home

ARTS & CULTURE

In this series, we whisk you around some of our favourite museums, galleries and sculpture parks across the UK, and select works and objects from each that relate to family life, home and nature.

“The relationship between art and the home is an interesting one,” says Simon Wallis, director of The Hepworth Wakefield. “A space where art and design are brought into conversation, reflecting personal taste.” The original Wakefield Art Gallery, whose legacy the new purpose-built gallery continues, occupied a terraced house in the city centre and in 1959 hosted a show called Living Today that saw eight architects furnish the exhibition space as though it were once again a private residence.

Wallis and his team have explored similar themes at The Hepworth Wakefield, which opened in 2011 in a David Chipperfield-designed building on the bank of the river Calder – a new home for the city’s collection of more than 5,000 works. It’s best known for its 20th-century and contemporary art, with 44 plaster and aluminium prototypes by the Wakefield-born and raised sculptor Barbara Hepworth at its heart. There are pieces by fellow modern British artists – including her Yorkshire counterpart Henry Moore – as well as works by contemporary artists such as Anthea Hamilton and Eva Rothschild.

Hepworth, who had four children, talked about the happy balance between being both mother and artist: “I loved the family and everything to do with them. I loved the environment and the cooking. I used to cook and go into my studio.” Of course, she had to have what she called “methods of working”: “If I was in the middle of a work and the oven burned or the children called for me, I used to make an arrangement with music, records or poetry, so that when I went back to the studio, I picked up where I left off.”

Here we select a handful of works to admire from home and seek out when The Hepworth Wakefield picks up where it left off.

Genesis (1969) by Barbara Hepworth

“I rarely make drawings for a particular sculpture,” wrote Hepworth in 1946. “I do, however, spend whole periods of time entirely in drawing when I search for forms and rhythms and curvatures for my own satisfaction.” In this sunny lithograph the artist suspends a pair of perfectly round circles in space, ringed by sharp and smudgy lines and arcs. The impression is one of almond-shaped eyes, lined with kohl and stacked one above the other, or planets floating in a fiery ether. Of course, the title refers to the creation of the universe – the birth of land, sea and sky.

Mother and Child (1934) by Barbara Hepworth

Motherhood was a recurring motif for Hepworth, who created this small abstract sculpture in pink Ancaster stone when she and her fellow artist Ben Nicholson (see below) were expecting what turned out to be triplets. She visualises mother and child as two independent bodies, set apart but intimately linked, the offspring nestling into a slight hollow in its parent’s stomach. The surface of the stone is smooth, its edges rounded, evoking the naturalness of birth and the vulnerability of both mother and infant. The result is a tender sculpture that attests to the bond that endures long after birth.

Parent I, Parent II and Young Girl (The Family of Man series) (1970) by Barbara Hepworth

In “The Family of Man” series, created towards the end of her career, Hepworth takes the physical separation of parents and children one step further. The nine bronze sculptures that make up the series can be shown all together, in small groups or individually. Each represents a different stage in life and looks both prehistoric and modern, resembling geological formations but also hinting at the human body. At the Hepworth Wakefield, “Parent I, Parent II and Young Girl” gather outside the gallery on the grassy riverbank.

The Farm (1922) by William Roberts

Roberts renders this rural scene with an angular composition, distorted figures and a bold palette. The golden field rises and falls like a wave while the trees on the horizon hunch to fit within the frame. Three cows with squared-off snouts stand in a diagonal line; to their right, a faceless couple pump water from a well. Cast your eyes over the canvas and you’ll see echoes in the various shapes and forms: the serpentine curl of the cows’ tails and the water-pump handle, the farmhands’ slender arms and the wooden slats of the gate. Roberts’ impression of the countryside is more decorative than documentary.

Head of a Woman (1926) by Henry Moore

In addition to his very many sculptures of mothers and children – which, unlike Hepworth, he typically presented as solitary figures – Moore made several masks and heads. In the 1920s and 30s he cast several dozen works from concrete, exploiting the artistic potential of architecture’s new material. The results hark back to ancient non-western forms – with simplified features reminiscent of tribal masks – while remaining resolutely modern with their pock-marked dark-grey finish, a world away from the unblemished white marble of the past.

E.O.W. Looking into the Fire II (1962) by Frank Auerbach

It may appear to be entirely abstract, but this flaming work by Auerbach is an attempt at capturing the “raw experience” of the artist’s principal model and friend: E.O.W are the initials of Estella (Stella) West, who frequently posed for Auerbach’s nudes and female heads. He created this sculptural portrait of her in profile over the course of hundreds of sittings, each carried out in the evening by electric light, building up thick layers of oil paint that lend the work a restless energy.

1933 (Piquet) by Ben Nicholson

Influenced by the scenes of Parisian café culture depicted by French Cubist painters such as Picasso and Braque, Nicholson created several still lifes composed of disconnected elements. Here a pair of scaly fish lie flat on a plate in front of a popular French card game, Piquet, and behind a bottle of wine – or at least its silhouette. At the same time, with the lack of perspective, the inky-blue palette and the seaweed-like form sprouting beside the cup and saucer, the table top could also pass for a seabed.

Crab (1953) by Bernard Meadows

Meadows is another artist who worked from nature; his rangy crab sculptures were inspired by his wartime service with the Royal Air Force on the Cocos Islands, a tropical Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. During his time there, he became fascinated by the fast-running Fiddler crab, which scuttles across the sand with its claws held high above its head. It wasn’t unusual for British sculpture in the early 1950s to take the form of hostile or hurt creatures, something the critic Herbert Read associated with postwar melancholia and the image conjured in T.S. Eliot’s early poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”

Vase (1959) by Lucie Rie

Rie’s delicate designs for modern life set her apart from Britain’s rural craftsmen and their rustic ceramics – in particular Bernard Leach, who produced earthy, functional wares to meet every domestic need. After setting up her studio in Vienna in 1925, she fled Nazi persecution and settled in north London in 1938. There she remained an urban potter, producing carefully considered coffeepots and cups, and pared-back vases – like this one – that were above all simple and elegant.

Rhubarb Triangle. Martin Bramley. Wakefield (2015) by Martin Parr

In 2015 the gallery commissioned Parr to create a series focused on the Rhubarb Triangle, a patch of farmland between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell that produces early-forced rhubarb. The photographer spent 12 months exploring all aspects of the labour-intensive work that goes into growing the vegetable, including ferrying it from field to shed and picking it by candlelight (or head-torch). This image shows Martin Bramley at Ouchthorpe Lane Farm, just one of the local farmers who attended the opening of Parr’s Wakefield exhibition, The Rhubarb Triangle and Other Stories.

The Hepworth Wakefield will reopen with Bill Brandt / Henry Moore.

Words by Chloë Ashby

All images are from The Hepworth Wakefield Permanent Art Collection, courtesy The Hepworth Wakefield.

Genesis (1969) by Barbara Hepworth Credit: Barbara Hepworth, Genesis, 1969. © Bowness. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones. Mother and Child (1934) by Barbara Hepworth Credit: Barbara Hepworth, Mother and Child, 1934. © Bowness. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones. The Farm (1922) by William Robert Credit: William Robert, The Farm, 1922. Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 1935 © Estate of John David Roberts. By permission of the Treasury Solicitor. Photography Jerry Hardman-Jones Crab (1953) by Bernard Meadows Credit: Bernard Meadow, Crab, 1953. Donated by Eric and Jean Cass through the Contemporary Art Society, 2012 © The Estate of Bernard Meadows. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones.1933 (Piquet) by Ben Nicholson Credit: Ben Nicholson, 1933 (Piquet), on display at The Hepworth Wakefield, 2019. Photo: George Baggaley Vase (1959) by Lucie Rie Credit: Lucie Rie, Vase, 1959. © Estate of the Artist. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones. Parent I, Parent II and Young Girl (The Family of Man series) (1970) by Barbara Hepworth Credit: Barbara Hepworth, Parent I, Parent II and Young Girl (‘The Family of Man’ series), 1970. © Bowness. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones.Head of a Woman (1926) by Henry Moore Credit: Henry Moore, Head of a Woman, 1926. © Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation. Photo: Norman Taylor. E.O.W. Looking into the Fire II (1962) by Frank Auerbach Credit: Frank Auerbach, E.O.W. Looking into the Fire II, 1962, on display at The Hepworth Wakefield, 2019. Photo: George Baggaley Rhubarb Triangle. Martin Bramley. Wakefield (2015) by Martin Parr Credit: Martin Parr. Rhubarb Triangle. Martin Bramley. Wakefield. UK., 2015. Commissioned by The Hepworth Wakefield © Courtesy the artist


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