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Barbara Hepworth was born on January 10, 1903, in Wakefield, England. She studied sculpture at the Leeds School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London from 1920 to 1924. In September 1924 she traveled to Italy, settling in Rome, where she began her career as a sculptor. In 1926 she returned to London, moving to 7 The Mall Studios in Hampstead in 1928. In 1931 she joined the London Group and the 7 & 5 Society. In 1931 Hepworth met Ben Nicholson, whom she would marry in 1938.
Hepworth’s sculpture became increasingly abstract from 1932 on. She and Nicholson became involved in the group Abstraction-Création in 1933 and in Paul Nash’s group Unit One the following year. After a break from sculpting starting in 1939, she returned with a new interest in hollowing precise shapes out of her sculpted material (stone or wood), which permitted her to play with the interior and exterior of the same sculpture. An interest in Constructivism led to publication of the book Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art, edited by Nicholson, Naum Gabo, and Leslie Martin and designed by Hepworth and Sadie Martin, in 1937. At the outbreak of World War II, Hepworth moved to St Ives in Cornwall, where she formed the Penwith Society of Arts with Nicholson, Peter Lanyon, and others.
The first major exhibition of Hepworth’s work was presented in 1943 at Temple Newsam in Leeds. In the 1950s several institutions held touring retrospectives of her work, including the Wakefield City Art Gallery in 1951, Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1954, and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in 1955. She won the Grand Prize at the São Paulo Bienal in 1959. In 1964 the British Council organized an exhibition of her work that toured Europe, and the same year her sculpture Single Form (1961–64) was erected in front of the United Nations building in New York. Alan Bowness published the catalogue raisonné of her work in 1971. Hepworth died in St Ives on May 20, 1975. Following her death, her house and studio became a museum dedicated to her work.