Hepworth on abstraction:

“This is no escapism, no ivory tower, no isolated pleasure in proportion and space – it is an unconscious manner of expressing our belief in a possible life. The language of colour and form is universal and not one for a special class (though this may have been in the past) – it is a thought which gives the same life, the same expansion, the same universal freedom to everyone.”

“The formal abstract relationships [in representation] are the conscious way of vitalizing ideas.”

“‘Abstract’ is a word which is now most frequently used to express only the type of outer form of a work of art; this makes it difficult to use it in relation to the spiritual vitality or inner life which is the real sculpture. Abstract sculptural qualities are found in good sculpture of all time, but it is significant that contemporary sculpture and painting have become abstract in thought and concept. As the sculptoral idea is in itself unfettered and can choose its own forms, the vital concept selects the form and substance of its expression quite unconsciously.”


On approach to life and work:

“Living here in Cornwall as I have done for eleven years – very near to the tip of the peninsula of Land’s End, facing the Atlantic with all it’s splendour of sea and sky – a conviction has been growing in me that some new apprehension of basic life forces is necessary if we are to survive the mechanical destructiveness of our time. (…) These forces are simple and the artist is constantly aware of them; but they are forces of passionate intensity, from the impact of which our civilisation has been shirking. The visionary capacity of human beings gives great strength, and I think we are becoming more aware of the necessity for an aesthetic approach to life and a greater balance between head and mind, mind and body. But it needs more than a knowledge of form, colour, sound, movement and gesture – it demands a tremendous effort of reassessment, revaluation of our position to understand the primary needs of man in order to release all those sensibilities which would make each one of us desire to create and understand more of the beauty of life and so make our humble praise whether we work in field or factory, office or studio.”

“It’s impossible to say how much time is spent in conceiving a project. I like to work all day and every day; the major part of the time is spent in actually carving, but all the time I’m not working I am thinking about sculpture. Looking out of a window or walking down the road it is impossible not to be aware of form and colour. (…) Realization (…) is a result of accumulated emotional experience, (…) a general and sustained experience rather than one particular incident.”

“The components fall into place, the detail is significant of unity.”

Barbara Hepworth. Text for a broadcast to the USA, 1951, unpublished in part; from Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations, edited by Sophie Bowness, 2015.