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Title: Barbara Hepworth : the international context
Author: Roberts, Emma Evelyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 9015
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 1996
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This text aims to reassess the career and intentionality of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth. Specifically, it is suggested that Hepworth did not receive the international recognition which perhaps one would expect of a Modernist sculptor who worked within the avant-garde. Various reasons for the relative neglect of Hepworth's art are offered in this thesis. For example, critics are perceived to have interpreted her work in the light of various personal agendas, and sculptures and paintings which deny traditional interpretations have consequently been withheld from exhibitions or assessment. I suggest that Hepworth's art has been difficult to assess in the past because the works seem both to relate to the classical tradition and yet encourage a sensual reaction from the viewer. Most critics feel obliged to categorise the sculptor'S work as either 'classical' or 'romantic'. Conversely, this thesis aims to embrace all, diverse, aspects of Hepworth's art, and will draw attention to the large variety of media and styles with which the sculptor experimented. It is perceived that, with the aid of Jack Burnham's concept of 'Vitalism', one may comfortably acknowledge the breadth and heterogeneity in the oeuvre of Barbara Hepworth. It is proposed that these unexpected qualities in Hepworth's body of work confirm my idea that she aimed to be much more expressive than has been previously thought. Although Hepworth was not always successful in enabling spectators to perceive her expressions, it is suggested that critical indifference to her aim was largely what prevented her work from being promoted as an example of internationally viable British art. In order to indicate the latent, but often poorly evoked, expression in Hepworth's art, I shall juxtapose pertinent examples with certain works by other artists. These are typical works by artists who are acknowledged to be expressionist- for example, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Theodore Roszak and David Smith. The purpose of these juxtapositions is not to assert that Hepworth was in any way related to these artists, but to highlight that there was also a neglected emotional and dynamic element to Hepworth's work. It is suggested here that stylised interpretations and stereotypical viewing of works have led to the incorrect impression that Hepworth's art is austere and unemotional. This then prevented Hepworth from gaining a significant reputation on an international scale. Expression and emotion were valued in the post-war period, yet Hepworth's art did not seem to correspond with the international Zeitgeist. This thesis aims to provide a new context which may enable fresh interpretations of Hepworth's work to be offered in the future. There have been many reasons for the formulation of this argument- the majority of which resulted from my analysis of fresh archival material. However the initial impetus arose from my understanding of the literature on Hepworth as being remarkably narrow and vague in focus. Viewing of the works also indicated that there were dynamic and expressive elements in Hepworth's art which have never been appraised. As a result of these sources, it became apparent that Barbara Hepworth expressed an entirely different intentionality to that with which she has been credited: she desired an international reputation which she was effectively refused.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available