4 Sculptors Who Moulded History

Celebrating women in sculpture

By Google Arts & Culture

A Greater Freedom: Installation view (2015/2016) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Sculpture, like many creative disciplines, has been recorded as a male-dominated field throughout the history books. In fact, there were virtually no known female sculptors until the late 19th century, when women were finally able to get the recognition they deserved.

Let's start rewriting the history books with four female sculptors to know...

1. Louise Joséphine Bourgeois

Born in 1911, Louise Bourgeois’ parents owned a gallery and tapestry restoration workshop in Paris. After studying geometry and math at the Sorbonne, she turned her focus to art.

Maman (1960) by Louise BourgeoisGuggenheim Bilbao

Bourgeois moved to New York in 1938 and later joined the American Abstract Artists Group. Much of her work focussed on domesticity and the family. However in her later years, she began to use the spider as a recurring motif, resulting in her being nicknamed ‘Spiderwoman’.

Pierced Hemisphere (1937/1937) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

2. Barbara Hepworth

Born in Yorkshire in 1903, Barbara Hepworth is one of the most famous sculptors of the 20th century. Her bold, modernist creations were made from a mix of materials including wood, bronze, and limestone. They range in size from small intimate pieces to monumental works.

Two Forms with White (Greek) (1963) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Hepworth spent many years working in St Ives, Cornwall, and Hampstead in London. As a founding member of the Unit One art movement, her work explored abstraction and surrealism in British art. She garnered a worldwide reputation for her beautiful forms and striking designs.

Ruth Asawa in her studio (ca. 1956)de Young museum

3. Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa was born to Japanese parents in California in 1926 and became interested in art from an early age. Later she studied under artist Josef Albers at Black Mountain College and began experimenting with crocheted wire forms.

Untitled (S.095, hanging single-lobed, six-layered continuous form within a form) (1952) by Ruth Asawade Young museum

Asawa continued to experiment with wire for the rest of her career, often using these organic, intricate shapes in her largescale public works. An activist for arts education, Asawa spent much of her life in San Francisco where many of her works remain on permanent display.

Gamin (ca. 1930) by Augusta SavageDixon Gallery and Gardens

4. Augusta Savage

Associated with the Harlem Renaissance, Augusta Savage was born in 1892 in Jacksonville, Florida. Savage began sculpting as a child, making small figures out of the red clay of her hometown. She went on to study at the prestigious Cooper Union in New York in the early 1920s. 

Portrait Head of John Henry (1940) by Augusta Christine (Fells) SavageMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston

Savage won numerous awards during her career and became the first woman to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Throughout her life, Savage campaigned for equal rights for African Americans and used black models for many of her pieces. 

Curved Form (Pavan) (1956) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

Learn more about women in arts and culture.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps