Have you ever walked right past a modernist masterpiece without knowing it? In London, it's certainly possible. The capital boasts many pieces of public art by the most influential sculptors of the 20th century, including Eduardo Paolozzi, Antony Gormley and — the focus of this piece — Barbara Hepworth.
Hepworth is renowned for her abstract, undulating sculptures inspired by the natural world, in particular, her beloved St Ives but also Hampstead, where she produced much of her earlier work. As she wrote in 1962, her sculptures were "mostly envisaged outside and related to the landscape", and the locations of her few London works reflect this. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Single Form (Memorial) - Battersea Park
Looming over the boating lake in Wandsworth's Battersea Park is Single Form (Memorial), which dates back to 1963. It's a smaller iteration of her largest ever work (titled simply Single Form), which is displayed outside the UN Headquarters in New York. However, we reckon it really comes into its own in a more natural setting —- just look at that peephole of blue sky and the gorgeous shadows those branches cast on the stone.
Monolith Empyrean - Kenwood House Gardens
This stunning Limestone work from 1953 was originally situated on London's South Bank, before moving to the gardens of Kenwood House in 1963. Head to the grounds of this 17th century stately home to see the nine-foot monolith for yourself — it's free to visit and a lovely way to round off a trip to the adjoining Hampstead Heath.
Winged Figure - John Lewis, Oxford Street
So, this one's a bit of a curveball. John Lewis commissioned Hepworth to create a sculpture to decorate Holles Street side of their new flagship London department store. After her first proposal was rejected, she came up with the spindly, aluminium Winged Figure in 1963, and it's hung there ever since.
An honourable mention: Two Forms (Divided Circle)
For more than forty years, Two Forms (Divided Circle) stood proudly in Dulwich Park. Disaster struck in 2011, though, when the sculpture was abducted by suspected black market metal dealers. Sadly, the bronze was never recovered — it's likely the thieves melted it down long ago. Five copies thankfully remain, including in Cambridge, Bolton, and St Ives.
Want more Barbara Hepworth in your life? She's now got a London blue plaque, which was erected former residence and first-ever studio in St John's Wood last year. Further afield, there's The Hepworth Wakefield in West Yorkshire and St Ives' Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, home to Figure for Landscape sculpture which you might have noticed outside the Tate Britain in Millbank during the artist's last major London retrospective.