Tate Returns To Form With Barbara Hepworth Blockbuster

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 32 months ago
Tate Returns To Form With Barbara Hepworth Blockbuster ★★★★☆ 4
Pelagos is one of Hepworth's best known works. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Pelagos is one of Hepworth's best known works. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
A wood carved infant is one of the highlights among Hepworth's smaller sculptures. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
A wood carved infant is one of the highlights among Hepworth's smaller sculptures. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
This massive sculpture is no longer outdoors and stands watch at the entrance to the exhibition. © Tate.
This massive sculpture is no longer outdoors and stands watch at the entrance to the exhibition. © Tate.
Two forms that show how the artist's early work was similar to that of Henry Moore's. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Two forms that show how the artist's early work was similar to that of Henry Moore's. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Another outdoor sculpture that is now inside the exhibition in a room designed to mimic an outdoor setting. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Another outdoor sculpture that is now inside the exhibition in a room designed to mimic an outdoor setting. © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth at work in her studio in St. Ives. Photograph: Val Wilmer, © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
Hepworth at work in her studio in St. Ives. Photograph: Val Wilmer, © Bowness, Hepworth Estate

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Tate Britain has had a tumultuous few years, what with mixed receptions across its exhibitions, and now with the announcement that director Penelope Curtis is on her way out. What better way to return to form then, than with a summer blockbuster of Barbara Hepworth.

The opening room had us a little worried. It showcases a mixture of artists and their smaller sculptures including Jacob Epstein's Doves and Elsie Henderson's graceful recumbent fawn; by comparison Hepworth's toad looks squat and malformed. And her female figures don't stand out when compared to other works in the room.

However, the next room shows Hepworth coming into her own; her mother and child piece successfully portrays the feeling of maternal intimacy, while other abstract sculptures flex Hepworth's artistic muscles; she is evolving as an artist.

The best is saved for last, in two rooms with only a small number of sculptures each. First we have Hepworth's wooden works that seem to be tentatively held together in a curved shape with taut strings. The next room mimics an outdoor setting with the artist's weathered bronzes. It's a shame that the Tate hasn't chosen to display some of her work outdoors as that's where many of these bronzes were meant to be seen, yet this doesn't detract too much from the exhibition (what WILL put some visitors off is the rather steep ticket price).

We've often struggled to appreciate Hepworth's work in the past; single work of hers often paled in comparison to many of her contemporaries, such as Henry Moore. But this show follows Hepworth's evolution as a sculptor, demonstrating her to be far more diverse than most of her peers — capable of excelling in many different styles of sculpting and carving. See this show and you really understand why she was regarded as one of Britain's greatest sculptors.

Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World is on at Tate Britain from 24 June-25 October. Tickets are £18 for adults, concessions available. Also on at Tate Britain is Fighting History and over at Tate Modern we're divided between the colourful Sonia Delaunay and the rather dull Agnes Martin.

For other major openings this month see the fun Carsten Holler, another splendid Summer Exhibition, Unfinished at The Courtauld Gallery and the most talked about art exhibitions in June.

Last Updated 23 June 2015