Barbara Hepworth - Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The latest in our new series about celebrated sculptors from Yorkshire is Wakefield born, Barbara Hepworth.

Barbara Hepworth, born in Wakefield in 1903, is regarded as one of the great artists of the 20th century and often spoke of how the Yorkshire landscape influenced her sculpture. She passionately believed her work should be ‘allowed to breathe’ outdoors and once wrote that she ‘kept on thinking of large works in a landscape; this has always been a dream in my mind’.

It is fitting then that two of her well known works are exhibited at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, close to her birthplace and near to sculptures by Sir Henry Moore, another eminent Yorkshire-born artist and her friend and fellow student at Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London.

Squares with Two Circles (1963), pictured here, and The Family of Man (1970) have been part of the YSP collection since 1982. They are a striking and familiar sight in the hillside area of the park. Her first love was carving and Squares with Two Circles is a development of earlier, carved works.

Hepworth’s growing reputation after 1945 meant she could afford to work in bronze and particularly liked being able to produce works on a scale impossible in marble or wood, which could be placed in outdoor public spaces. When she worked in bronze she would first build up the piece in plaster and then carve into it before it was cast. The surface marks and textures of Squares with Two Circles were made in this way.

The colour of the sculpture is altered by the changing weather and season. Sometimes the sculpture is dark and becomes silhouetted against the landscape at other times it is animated by sunlight and can appear almost golden.

The Family of Man, Hepworth’s other major work at YSP is a representation of figures in the landscape and is one of the last major works Hepworth completed before her death in 1975. Family is not only a universal survey of humanity but also a personal history. The sculptures become more sophisticated in composition as they mature, from Young Girl sited at the bottom of the hillside area of the park, through Bride and Bridegroom and finally Ultimate Form, sited at the top of the hillside area.

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Yorkshire Sculpture Park was established in 1977 by the executive director Peter Murray OBE. The park has five indoor galleries and 500 acres of 18th century parkland and has grown as an international centre for modern and contemporary art experienced and enjoyed by many thousands of visitors each year. Find out more at

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