The Genius of Barbara Hepworth

Rena George Cornwall 7 Comments

HEPWORTH  Barbara, 1966, sculpteur (GB) © ERLING MANDELMANN ©

The lady on the left is Barbara Hepworth, one of the most celebrated artists ever to grace the cobbled streets of St Ives.

I can’t believe that in all the years we have been visiting Cornwall we haven’t called in to the wonderful Barbara Hepworth Museum before. Well we put that right last week and it was such a treat I thought you might enjoy having a peek yourselves.

This simple unimposing corner cottage in a St Ives back street gives no hint of the glorious sculpture gardens that lie hidden just behind it.



I can’t claim to understand today’s contemporary art, but there’s a sense of flow and comfort in the circles and swirls, the smooth sweeping curves of the stone and bronze sculptures in this garden.


This is the artist’s studio in the garden. It’s fascinating to know that sculptures such as the 21 ft bronze that graces the piazza in front of the United Nations Building in New York probably started life here, and in the bigger rooms she leased just across the road.


Leafy paths lead the visitor past towering trees and shrubs to discover one striking piece of sculpture after another.IMG_2587


… And then there’s this very much at home chapIMG_2600.

No one knows his name. he just turned up one day and the museum staff didn’t have the heart to evict him, so they feed and care for him instead.

He seemed totally oblivious to the artistic splendour that surrounded him, but then he probably assumes the visitors have all turned out just to see him. And why not?

Barbara married her celebrated artist partner, Ben Nicholson, in 1938 – four years after their triplets were born. Soon after the family moved to Cornwall. Sadly the marriage, which was the second for both of them, was not to last.

Barbara acquired Trewyn Studio in the centre of St Ives in 1949 and immediately began working there, before taking up permanent residence the following year.

Her marriage to Ben was dissolved in 1951.

In 1975 Barbara Hepworth died, aged 72, in a tragic fire in the studio she loved.

I adore the whole artistic ambience of St Ives. Walking along those narrow, cobbled back streets is like stepping back in time. The tiny stone cottages that would originally have been homes to fisher families may now be holiday homes, and there are studios on every corner. But I don’t mind that because the historic heart of St Ives still beats strong.


Comments 7

  1. What a lovely informative post, thank you! I enjoyed reading this Rena. I love that the cat probably thinks everyone turns up to see him.
    What a very sad end to Barbara’s life and what a lovely memorial the museum is to her x

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      The museum was a wonderful place, Teresa, and as you so rightly suggest, very poignant given The artist’s sad end. I’m sure if that lovely cat had turned up in Barbara Hepworth’s day she would also have given it a home.

  2. What a lovely blog post. In fact I’ve shared it onto my wall. I love this museum although haven’t been for many years. So tragic that she died in the place she loved in such a terrible way. Such a peaceful place now. Love the cat, don’t think he was there when we went.

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      Aw, thank you, Liz. I can’t believe I haven’t visited this lovely museum before. In fact, museum feels like the wrong word to describe it. The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden is an experience – and really quite moving in its own way. I would definitely encourage other St Ives visitors to call in as we did. It’s so well worth a visit.

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