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Today’s (25 August) Google Doodle has an especially artistic flavour, as it celebrates the life and work of artist and sculptor, Barbara Hepworth.
The Doodle is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Hepworth’s move to St. Ives, Cornwall, where she would establish a studio and carve out the majority of her career.
Hepworth was one of the few female artists of her generation to achieve international prominence, and her work still epitomises the art movement of Modernism.
Barbara Hepworth was born on 10 January 1903 in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and it was quickly apparent a creative spark resided with her.
She was awarded prizes in music from Wakefield Girls’ High School from the tender age of 12, and soon secured a scholarship to study at Leeds’ School of Art just a few years later.
The pair would foster a friendly professional rivalry that lasted throughout both of their careers; Hepworth was the first to sculpt the characteristic pierced figures of hers and Moore’s work.
In 1931, Hepworth met her second husband – painter Ben Nicholson – while holidaying at Happisburgh on the Norfolk coast.
The pair co-founded the Unit One art movement – which sought to unite Surrealism and abstraction in British art – and married in 1938, four years after welcoming triplets Rachel, Sarah and Simon to the world.
She said of motherhood: « A woman artist is not deprived by cooking and having children… one is in fact nourished by this rich life, provided one always does some work each day; even a single half hour, so that the images grow in one’s mind. »
Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Hepworth and her family children went to live in Cornwall.
Hepworth established her studio space at Trewyn Studios in St. Ives, a location she described as « sort of magic… a studio, a yard, and garden where I could work in open air and space. »
St. Ives became a refuge for many artists during the war, and Hepworth was a leading figure in the colony of creatives who resided there, co-founding the Penwith Society of Arts with her husband.
« Have seen all the press, » she wrote following her first visit to New York. « Pulled faces at the camera and generally done my best! »
In 1960, she purchased the Palais de Danse, a former cinema and dance hall across the street from her Trewyn Studios. She used the space to work on large-scale commissions.
She died in an accidental fire at her Trewyn Studios in May 1975 at the age of 72.
Today’s Doodle was created by artist Matt Cruickshank, whose approach was to replicate Hepworth’s St. Ives studio, imagining « a magnificent space to create in with windows open and cats quietly judging. »
Where most artists would tackle materials with a preconceived idea of how the final product might look, Hepworth was influenced by the media she was working with, allowing her time with them to shape the final outcome.
« One of Hepworth’s quotes was ‘I draw what I feel in my body,' » says Cruickshank. Hepworth approached her work with tools that « gave her the base with which to nurture her ultimate skill: instinct. »
The artist hopes the Doodle will allow people to « aspire to achieve what Barbara did – to shape forms in balance with nature and harmony, whether that form is sculpture, writing, music or even just ourselves. »
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