Barbara Hepworth and Bridget Riley

Explore the relationship between the work of these two artists

By The Hepworth Wakefield

Around (1963) by Bridget RileyThe Hepworth Wakefield

In the 1960s a new form of art was emerging, known as Op Art, which used geometric shapes to create optical effects.

Bridget Riley, Study for 'Blaze' (1962)British Museum

Alongside Jesus Rafael Soto and Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley was one of the leading figures in the Op Art movement. 

Movement in Squares (1961) by Bridget RileyArts Council Collection

Riley began producing multifocal works that give the illusion of movement to explore human perception.  

Around (1963) by Bridget RileyThe Hepworth Wakefield

Often incorporating circles and squares, these works recalled Hepworth’s pre-war visual language to which she was increasingly returning: 

‘I don’t think anyone realises how much the last ten years has been a fulfilment of my youth… but going back also opens the door to brand new ideas.’ 

Sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1964) by Paul SchutzerLIFE Photo Collection

During the 1960s Hepworth also became more interested in how her work encouraged both physical and dynamic engagement.  She made several architectural works, where the viewer could move inside the work, as well as around it.  

Sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1964) by Paul SchutzerLIFE Photo Collection

‘Sculpture is to me an affirmative statement of our will to live: whether it be small, to rest in the hand; or larger, to be embraced; or larger still, to force us to move around it and establish our rhythm of life’. 

~ Barbara Hepworth, 1966

Four-Square (Four Circles) (On long loan to THW from the Hepworth Estate) (1966) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Four-Square (Four Circles) (1966) exemplifies Hepworth's return to the geometric forms of her 1930s work. She made a monumental version of this work, Four-Square (Walk Through), where the viewer is invited to 'walk through' the work.

By Paul SchutzerLIFE Photo Collection

Hepworth was attuned to developments in contemporary art and she became the first female Tate Trustee in 1965, a role which she held until 1972. She was involved in discussing new acquisitions for the collection at a time when Riley's work first entered the Tate collection.  

Echo (1962) by Bridget RileyThe Hepworth Wakefield

Riley and Hepworth exhibited together in 1964 in the Tate Gallery exhibition Painting and Sculpture of a Decade ’54-’64, an expansive survey of contemporary art which included only eight women out of 170 artists. 

Echo (1962) by Bridget RileyThe Hepworth Wakefield

Both artists remained admirers of each other's work.  After visiting Hepworth's studio some years later, Riley wrote to her: ‘As an artist, your example has always been a source of encouragement and your great achievements I deeply respect.’ 

Installation image of Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life. May 2021. Photo: Nick Singleton. (2021)The Hepworth Wakefield

For Barbara Hepworth: Art & Life, Riley’s paintings have been selected in consultation with the artist to be shown in dialogue with Hepworth's sculptures of the 1950s and 1960s. Riley has also produced written reflections on some of Hepworth’s sculptures on display.

Four-Square (Four Circles) (On long loan to THW from the Hepworth Estate) (1966) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield


Four-Square (Four Circles) (1966)

'Signifies a return to a more disciplined approach, tightly-argued trains of thought. Locations and dislocations providing for the greater engagement of the viewer.' 

Hollow Form with White Interior (1963) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Hollow Form with White Interior (1963)

'It opens up a huge sense of space. A sensation which belies the objective experience of the sculpture. A powerful statement of the aesthetic of that post-war period and a beautiful carving.' 

Three Oblique Forms (February) (1967) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Three Oblique Forms (February) (1967)

'The diagonal turns up. A time honoured traditional dynamic enters the argument. A very interesting development upsetting the balance but not destroying it.' 
 

Curved Form (Oracle) (1960) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

'...Hepworth's work from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s – the great period of post-war art on both sides of the Atlantic.'

Credits: Story

Discover how Barbara Hepworth has inspired contemporary artists today here.

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