Barbara Hepworth is now acknowledged as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. Combining Hepworth’s public statements with her private correspondences, this fascinating biography offers a penetrating insight into the remarkable life, work and legacy of this singular artist.
Hepworth was reproached for single-mindedness in her lifetime, with critics and commentators framing both the artist and her work as ‘cool and restrained’. A continued focus on her modernist abstract sculpture of the 1930s and its relation to the work of her male contemporaries has left elements of her work and related passions overlooked. This fully illustrated account of her life and work reflects for the first time Hepworth’s multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach, bringing together as never before her interests in dance, music, poetry, contemporary politics, science and technology; her engagement with these fields through friends and networks as well as her artistic practice; and the ways in which she fused sometimes seemingly conflicting disciplines and ideas into one coherent and inspirational philosophy of art and life.
'Clayton’s book may be unusual in that she avoids the British biographical tradition of combining amateur psychoanalysis with elevated gossip. But it is perfect on its own terms, dissecting Hepworth’s thoughtful writing, the technicalities of her changing sculptural practice, the demands of motherhood and her ambition and seriousness. What emerges most powerfully from Clayton’s study is the importance of female friendships and loyalties in Hepworth’s life'
'Clayton, drawing on a cache of unpublished letters that Hepworth wrote to a small group of her closest female friends, puts the other side of the story. The woman whom you will meet, rather than being the steely Stakhanovite of cliché, is also a mother in post-natal crisis, struggling to care alone for a trio of toddlers, agonising over which was the right course to take. The reader taps into her desperation as, confined to a dingy London flat with her newborns, she cries “for days on end”'
Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times
'This biography’s value and novelty are level-headedness and fine-grained research. Clayton explains rather than exculpates, narrates rather than judges. She sets Hepworth talking through the pages, quoting generously from letters … The book’s illustrations (nearly 200 of them, mostly colour) bring together a lifetime’s vision …The pages glow and thrum with stringed bronze, humped wood and bored stone, with cool white plaster scooped and painted'
'Through both the book and exhibition we gain a sense of Hepworth as a strong, clear-headed figure moving back and forth within a set of influences: her beloved children, her lifelong faith as a Christian Scientist, romantic love, music, her interest in the spiritual realm and her fascination with materials and the natural world'
Hettie Judah, The i