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Barbara Hepworth: Experimenting with Print

Our current exhibition A Greater Freedom: Hepworth 1965-75 (closing Sunday 24 April), focuses on Barbara Hepworth’s prolific approach to art making during her later years. The exhibition features a collection of lithographic prints created by Hepworth during this period of time, developed in collaboration with legendary print studio Curwen Studio Press in London. A full set of Barbara Hepworth’s experiments with print are kept within The Hepworth Wakefield’s collection.

Print was a medium readily adopted by Hepworth in 1958 – exploring it broadly to investigate the overlap between 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional form. Hepworth noted in 1965, that ‘when I start drawing and painting abstract forms I am really exploring new forms, hollows and tensions which will lead me where I want to go’. A number of Hepworth’s prints operate in dialogue with her sculptures, for example in 1968 Hepworth produced a wood carving entitled ‘Three Forms’ (1968) and also a lithographic print also called ‘Three Forms’ (below – also 1968). However many prints can be viewed as distinct from her sculptural practice, experiments employing a playful use of line, shape and the colours of lithography – demonstrating an enjoyment of working graphically and generating prints which were significant in their own right. Similarly whilst some prints were based upon drawings and paintings made first in the studio then recreated in print, others were spontaneously drawn directly onto the printing plates used to make the lithographs.

Three Forms
Barbara Hepworth. Three Forms. Lithographic Print. 1968.

The prints were made with legendary print studio Curwen Studio Press, under the supportive eye of master printmaker Stanley Jones. In 2015, Stanley Jones visited The Hepworth Wakefield, reminiscing about working with Hepworth in 1968 and talking about the boom in artist’s limited edition prints since Curwen Studio Press was set-up in the late 1950s. Jones also donated a very special gift to The Hepworth Wakefield, in the form of an artist proof by Barbara Hepworth, the very first print she created with Curren Studio Press in 1958 (complete with the artist’s thumbprint caught on the edge of the print).

In connection to this legacy, The Hepworth Wakefield often host printmaking workshops for all ages, exploring a variety of different print techniques and processes. In April artist Laura Slater will be facilitating a one-day workshop for adults exploring collagraph and drypoint etching. As part of this workshop learners will be invited, behind-the-scenes, into The Hepworth Wakefield’s archive to exclusively view Hepworth’s original, unframed artist proof – providing inspiration for their own experimentation.

Laura Slater’s practice incorporates a similarly intuitive and playful approach to various print processes, developing patterns and surfaces often printed by hand on to textiles and objects. Laura’s work with collagraph in particular (see image below) tests the boundaries of this print medium, exploring greyscale and repetition to dynamic effect.

Laura Slater. Collagraph Repeat 2014. From the collection ‘Collagraph’.

A number of places are still available for Laura Slater’s one-day printmaking workshop, experimenting with collagraph and drypoint printing, full details on how to book can be found in the What’s On section of our website, here.

Further Listening and Reading

You can view Stanley Jones interview with Alan Powers in 2015 here:

Also there is a fascinating radio show exploring Stanley Jones and Curwen Studio Press can be heard on the BBC Radio 4 website here:

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