Archive Blog – June 2015

Barbara Hepworth – all the rage!

3 British Artists at the Martha Jackson Gallery, 1954

As the exhibition Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World opens at Tate Britain, it seemed a good time to look at some of the material relating to Hepworth held in the William Scott Archive. Most of it dates to 1954, the year Scott introduced Hepworth to his New York dealer Martha Jackson. On 13 May 1954, Jackson had written to Scott, telling him of her plans to visit England and included the instruction, ‘Tell Barbara Hepworth I am looking forward to meeting her so much… Also I am delighted to see her show and all the other things you told me about.’ The ‘show’ to which Martha Jackson was referring was the major Hepworth retrospective which had opened at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London that April. In a letter which Scott wrote to Hepworth, no doubt shortly after Martha Jackson’s missive arrived, he told the sculptor that his ‘American friend’ would be in London between 29 May and 5 June and was very anxious to arrange a meeting. He himself had already seen Hepworth’s retrospective, and ended his letter by saying: ‘I would like to say again how impressed I was with your collected works at Whitechapel. It is a memorable exhibition and I am looking forward to seeing it again before it closes.’

Martha Jackson’s meeting with Hepworth was presumably a success as, on her return to New York, Jackson began planning an exhibition of work by Scott, Hepworth and Francis Bacon. As she explained to Scott, ‘There is a curious something in common. The black Bacons, the white marble Hepworths, and the austere and commanding black & white Scotts. It couldn’t look more terrific. Each has a strong primitive insight.’ [Letter from Martha Jackson to Scott, 28 August 1954] The exhibition 3 British Artists: Hepworth Scott Bacon opened on 12 October 1954 with eleven works by Hepworth, all of which had been shown at her Whitechapel retrospective. Hepworth was evidently pleased; a few days before the exhibition she wrote to Scott to thank him for sending news of Martha with whom she was ‘very glad’ to be ‘fixed up’. [Letter from Hepworth to Scott, 3 October 1954]

A few years later, the Martha Jackson Gallery helped to organise an exhibition at the recently opened Gallery Moos in Toronto in which, again, works by Scott and Hepworth were shown side by side. 4 Internationals opened in February 1960 (the other two ‘internationals’ were Karel Appel and Antonio Tàpies). The catalogue which accompanied the exhibition included a quotation by Sir Herbert read about Hepworth’s sculpture:

‘A new and constructive image which provokes in us a desire to enhance life, assert it, and assist its further development – there we have the definition of the kind of work of art which a sculptor like Barbara Hepworth tries to create. If we live with such a work of art it becomes an object which in contemplation confers on the troubled spirit a timeless serenity.’

For more information contact:
Lucy Inglis –