Tate Britain, London: Photographs by Barbara Hepworth (1903-75), including collages, photograms and double exposures have been uncovered from Hepworth’s archives and will be displayed for the first time in Tate Britain’s upcoming exhibition Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World, opening 24 June 2015. The photographs reveal the importance of photography to the work of one of Britain’s most famous sculptors.
Hepworth experimented with a variety of photographic techniques, recognising the importance of photography in shaping the public reception of her work and her reputation as an artist. She gave strict instructions to publishers and formed friendships with sympathetic photographers and filmmakers in order to manage closely the way her work was presented in print and on film.
The exhibition includes a series of original photo collages by Hepworth, until recently thought to be lost. The collages were published in an issue of Architectural Review in 1939. They were uncovered in the artist’s archives held by the Hepworth Estate during research for the exhibition. She created the collages from cut out photographs of her sculptures Forms in Echelon 1938,Helicoids in Sphere 1938 and Two Forms 1938 placed onto a range of architectural and natural backgrounds. She presented the sculptures as scaled-up versions, in well-known modernist houses and gardens. The collages demonstrate Hepworth’s appreciation of how her sculptures changed according to their setting.
Personal albums from the artist’s estate, compiled by Hepworth and her husband Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) in the 1930s will be displayed for the first time. The carefully laid out photographs, depicting each other, their work and their studio, show the development of a way of life integrated with art. Further images emphasise Hepworth’s investigations into how sculptures could best be presented in two-dimensions. For example a double exposure photograph translates the sculpture Two Forms 1937 into a Cubist style image and was created by opening the camera shutter twice to show two views of the same subject in one film frame.
A ghostly ‘self-photogram’ from Tate’s archive and also displayed for the first time, shows Hepworth’s early photographic experimentation in the 1930s. Created by placing an object directly onto light-sensitive paper and exposing it to light, the photogram depicts the artist’s head in profile. The relationship between the photogram and the lines of the sculpture can be seen in Sculpture with Profiles 1932 and other carved works made at that time.