Dame Barbara Hepworth was a trailblazing force in 20th-century British sculpture who profoundly impacted modern art with her dedication to form, space, and abstraction. Born in Yorkshire in 1903, she endured a heart-wrenching tragedy in February 1953, when her son Paul, an RAF pilot, was killed in a plane crash—a tragic event that plunged her into a deep depression. It was a rejuvenating trip to Greece in 1954 that helped to lift the fog. Immersed in the region’s ancient landscapes, Hepworth meticulously documented her experiences through sketches and reflective diary entries, and upon her return to England the ancient Greek amphitheatres’ majesty became a muse, inspiring her to carve a series of six sculptures from Guarea wood.
The Diary Entry
Ascended Kynthos alone, the cave of Apollo — half-way magnificent and majestic. A pool with fine fig trees nearby full of giant (sacred?) toads — leaping and barking. Also green frogs.
Went on alone up the last steep ascent but the wind was angry — ferocious. I fell, my hair was nearly whisked off my head — my clothes nearly torn off me. I bowed to the will of the gods and descended.
Saw a magnificent Koros — tall, fierce and passionate bigger than life size — in the Museum. A heavenly work — the back and buttocks in relation to the hip and waist — an inspiration. I thought the fragment of leg and calf (attached below the knee) was falsely attributed. Fine Minoan ivories — especially the warrior with double shield.
Delos was perturbed — an angry wind — making it difficult to return to Miaoulis….
In 1965, Barbara Hepworth’s “Greek Diary” was reprinted in J. P. Hodin, European Critic: Essays, and in 1991, a couple of those diary entries appeared in another book, Voicing Our Visions: Writings by Women Artists, edited by Mara R. Witzling, which is fantastic.
- All of Hepworth’s work can be seen on the official Barbara Hepworth website, maintained by her estate
- ‘Corinthos’ was one of Barbara Hepworth’s first sculptures returning from Greece (Tate Gallery)
- Barbara Hepworth – ‘A New Form for Sculpture’ (YouTube)
- Hepworth’s Greek Diary (Google Arts & Culture)
Diary entry reprinted by kind permission of the Hepworth Estate. Barbara Hepworth © Bowness.