The head of collections and exhibitions at Wakefield’s Hepworth Gallery gave an illustrated lecture as part of Ilkley Arts Festival last week.

Frances Guy spoke at the lecture hosted by Ilkley Art Club on behalf of the festival.

She spoke about the gallery itself, and the prestigious works and working methods of sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Reviewer David Walker writes: The lecture included a comprehensive review of the origin of the Wakefield Art Gallery and the subsequent foundation of the Hepworth Gallery in 2011.

The history of Barbara Hepworth as a Wakefield-born artist and her development as a sculptor was addressed in detail, showing her initial influences in the landscape and industrial scene of her home county which remained with her throughout her working life.

Frances described how the artistic evolution from the figurative to the abstract occurred during Hepworth’s career. Her work was influenced by 20th-century European avant-garde such as Picasso, Braque and Gabo, in addition to British artists including Henry Moore (her contemporary at Leeds College of Art and the RCA), Epstein, Skeaping and Ben Nicholson. Her marriages to both Skeaping and Nicholson were shown to be symbiotic influences in her development.

It was fascinating to learn how such a diminutive woman could undertake large sculptural projects in a field dominated by men. Little wonder, then, she used collaborators to do some of the “heavy lifting”.

The role of the Hepworth Gallery in bringing together drawings, archive material about her working processes, along with preparatory sculptural models and finished work was most interesting. Frances also described some of the architectural principles underlying the design of the gallery, showing examples of the superb exhibition spaces now in use.

It all served to re-inforce the continuing high status of Hepworth as an artist of both national and international import-ance, as illustrated with the examples of the John Lewis project in London and the monumental sculpture outside the United Nations Building in New York.

This excellent lecture gave an illuminating insight into the life and work of a woman who became, and remains, a major figure in the history of 20th century sculpture.