Nine Barbara Hepworth Quotes (With Pictures)

Four-Square by Barbara Hepworth in her coastal garden
Barbara Hepworth’s garden looks out over rooftops towards the sea

In normal times, a permanent collection of Barbara Hepworth’s work can be seen in the St Ives garden she so evidently loved. Although the garden remains on shutdown, a wide range of material is available online (see the links below).  Her work fits wonderfully well into its Cornish setting, within striking distance of ancient standing stones such as Mên-an-Tol, Lanyon Quoit and the Kenidjack Common Holed Stones.

A woman in a man’s world, Barbara Hepworth observed she sometimes felt like a wounded gull being pecked to death by the healthy ones. I’m using her own words to accompany these pictures which may tempt you to learn more about her work and writing, and a creative life that ended in a tragic accident.

Outdoor furniture and parasol in the Barbara Hepworth garden
The guardians of Barbara Hepworth’s work have preserved the sense of a private space for living as well as working

“People always want to carve a nose before they can make a piece of stone stand up.”

“A sculptor’s landscape embraces all things that grow and live and are articulate in principle: the shape of the buds already formed in autumn, the thrust and fury of spring growth, the adjustment of trees and rocks and human beings to the fierceness of winter – all these belong to the sculptor’s world.”

Acanthus mollis with Barbara Hepworth bronze
Acanthus mollis with Figure For Landscape

“Sculpture makes people act in a certain way; they move in a certain manner. Their gestures and their reaction to a sculpture are extremely expressive and this is the point – if the architect and the sculptor know how to seize upon it – where one might achieve a vital development in the architect’s as well as in the sculptor’s work in relation to human needs.”

Two Forms (detail) in the Barbara Hepworth Museum Garden
Two forms (detail) with plants and Hepworth’s garden shed

“When I first pierced a shape, I thought it was a miracle.”

“All my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the form. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of fullnesses and concavities, through hollows and over peaks – feeling, touching, seeing, through mind and hand and eye. This sensation has never left me.”

View through hole in River Form by Barbara Hepworth
Astilbe glimpsed through the hole in River Form, with reflections

“My left hand is my thinking hand. The right is only a motor hand. This holds the hammer. The left hand, the thinking hand, must be relaxed, sensitive. The rhythms of thought pass through the fingers and grip of this hand into the stone. It is also a listening hand. It listens for basic weaknesses of flaws in the stone; for the possibility or imminence of fractures.”

Overalls hanging in the Barbara Hepworth Museum
The artists’ overalls still hang from hooks on the door

“It’s never easy for a sculptor to have enough money, enough space and enough material.”

Barbara Hepworth's St Ives studio with tools
Her studio is pretty much as she left it

“I think sculpture grows in the open light and with the movement of the sun its aspect is always changing; and with space and the sky above, it can expand and breathe.”

Barbara Hepworth's sculptures
Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures were designed to be outside

“I always envisage ‘perfect settings’ for sculpture and they are, of course, mostly envisaged outside and related to the landscape. Whenever I drive through the countryside and up the hills, I imagine forms placed in situations of natural beauty and I wish more could be done about the permanent siting of sculptures in strange and lonely places.”


All pictures were taken at the:

Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
Barnoon Hill, Saint Ives, Cornwall TR26 1AD

For more about the artist, the sources of the quotations, and details of entry, check out the museum’s website.

For More About The Artwork

The Tate’s online resources offer insights into the history, materials, techniques and ideas behind Barbara Hepworth’s work and the conservation approach taken to preserve them. The bronzes shown here are:
Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969
River Form 1965
Four-Square (Walk Through)
Sphere With Inner Form
Figure For Landscape

28 Replies to “Nine Barbara Hepworth Quotes (With Pictures)”

  1. Thank you for jarring me out of the everyday! I stopped the longest at that first image, which crazed my eye — what a line of vision! And then the one with the Astilbe — I really want to touch that to figure it out. But what I’m going to take with me for pondering is “articulate in principle.” A real mind-bender.

    1. I liked the idea of every new sculptor wanting to carve a nose when they couldn’t make the stone stand up. It’s pithy, with the potential for slapstick – a counterpoint to ‘someone always leaves a banana skin at the scene of a tragedy’. I see the emerging sculpture toppling over and smashing the nose, with the ambitious nose carver looking on in horror.

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