John Spurling

Hepworth’s silent classicism

John Spurling on a centenary exhibition celebrating the sculptor's work

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Barbara Hepworth died in a fire in her St Ives home in 1975 and, although her reputation has not diminished since then, it has hardly risen. Rather, perhaps, it has spread, at least among visitors to her studio and garden in St Ives, where she lived the last 26 years of her life, or to Wakefield, where she was born in 1903 and near where her nine-piece group 'The Family of Man' stands magisterially on a grass slope in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

She was much honoured in her lifetime and much relished the recognition, since she was always very conscious of her status as the first internationally famous woman in what was then a man's profession. But although she won the major award at the Sao Paolo Biennal in 1959, was commissioned to make the huge memorial to Dag Hammarskj