Forms in Movement

By Lee Jean Lin

Students will learn about abstract art and British sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s many famous sculpture pieces, especially her “Forms in Movement” series.  They will create their own free form sculpture with wire and fabric, using Hepworth’s style as an inspiration. 

This project was made possible by generosity of Ganahl Lumber in Torrance who donated the wood block for each student. Thank you

The British sculptress Dame Barbara Hepworth is one of the greatest twentieth century sculptors and the most significant female artist of the period in a largely male-dominated art-world.  She was a huge influence on the development of modern art in general and abstract sculpture in particular. From 1925 to her death in 1975, Hepworth made more than 600 works of sculpture. She was among the few female artists who were able to carve an international reputation for themselves. 


At a young age Hepworth was the privileged pupil, allowed by her headmistress at Wakefield Girls' high school to draw and paint while the other girls were on the playing fields. She won scholarships first to Leeds and then to the Royal College of Art in London, where Henry Moore, Raymond Coxon and Enid Marx were her contemporaries. Both Hepworth and Moore became leading practitioners of the avant-garde method of Direct Carving (working directly in to the chosen material) avoiding the more traditional process of making preparatory models and maquettes from which a craftsman would produce the finished work.  They developed a friendly professional rivalry that would last for many years and the influence they exerted on each other’s work was not only important in the development of their careers but also instrumental in the rise of Modernism in the British art scene.  

You can’t make a sculpture, in my opinion, without involving your body. You move and you feel and you breathe and you touch. The spectator is the same. His body is involved too. If it’s a sculpture he has to first of all sense gravity. He’s got two feet. Then he must walk and move and use his eyes and this is a great involvement. […] One is physically involved and this is sculpture....

                Barbara Hepworth

During 1930’s, after divorcing from Skeaping, her artist husband, she spent periods of time travelling with her 2nd husband, Ben Nicholson, throughout Europe, and it was there that Hepworth met Georges Braque and Piet Mondrian, and visited the studios of Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, and Jean Arp. The experience was a hugely exciting one for Hepworth, for she not only found herself in the studios of some of Europe’s most influential artists, which helped her to approach her own career with renewed vigor and clarity, but also found there mutual respect. The School of Paris had a lasting effect on both Hepworth and Nicholson as they became key figures in an international network of abstract artists.  

During the same period, Hepworth started to pierce her carvings thus introducing the ‘hole’ to Modern British sculpture. Her first such work is the celebrated sculpture Pierced Form, which was created in 1931. The use of piercings to find a balance between form and space became a hallmark of Hepworth’s work and is considered one of her most important contributions to the art of abstract sculpture.  A member of the Parisian Abstraction-Creation group, and the London Circle group, her reputation spread worldwide after World War II. Her most significant works of sculpture include the Dag Hammerskjold Memorial Single Form (1963, United Nations, New York), Pelagos (1946, Tate London), Hollow Form with White Interior (1963, Gimpel Fils, London), and Conversation with Magic Stones (1973, National Gallery of Scotland).