Dame Barbara Hepworth DBE (10 January 1903 – 20 May 1975) was an English sculptor. Her work exemplifies Modernism, and with such contemporaries as Ivon Hitchens, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Naum Gabo she helped to develop modern art (sculpture in particular) in Britain.
But she is less known for her drawings. This week a new exhibition opens at the Hepworth Gallery which reveals a remarkable series of exquisite drawings and paintings made by the artist during the late 1940s, illustrating surgeons at work in operating theatres within Post-War Britain.
Following the hospitalisation of their daughter Sarah in 1944, Hepworth and her husband, the artist Ben Nicholson, struck up a friendship with Norman Capener, the surgeon who treated Sarah at the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital in Exeter. Through this friendship, Hepworth was invited to witness a variety of surgical procedures at Exeter and the London Clinic. Over a two-year period, 1947-49, Hepworth produced around 80 works within the series. As well as pencil, ink and chalk drawings, many were executed in both pencil and oil paint on board, and as such can be seen as both paintings and drawings.