The Musée Rodin will be holding the first monographic exhibition on the work of British sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) in Paris, in association with Tate. Though little known in France, Hepworth, who frequented artists such as Henry Moore, Picasso and Kandinsky, revolutionised sculpture with her development of a new aesthetic sensibility. Her abstract works, imbued with poetic purity, aspire to an ideal, peaceful world.
Distancing herself from Rodin’s powerful expressionism, Hepworth sought a new aesthetic founded on the language of form and volume. The poetic nature of her sculpted volumes was largely inspired by the natural and plant world. Her organic sculptures also represent her world view: for post-WWI society, this new sensibility conveyed an impression of peace in opposition to the atrocities of recent years. Hepworth’s artistic vocabulary contrasted with the work of other sculptors, founded on pathos, based on construction or inspired by machines.
In 1934, she wrote that her aim was to “project into a plastic medium some universal or abstract vision of beauty”. The essence of her art lies in the play of convex and concave, the subtle contrast of solid and void. Beneath the silent exterior of solid forms, Hepworth’s art aspired to an ideal
world, allowing her, in her own words, to “swallow despair”.
Hepworth’s aesthetic also stemmed from her love of material, which she carved directly, as if seeking to extract a singular harmony from the intrinsic characteristics of each block. After WWII, she reinvented the art of plaster sculpture, working it by hand to create her monumental pieces.