Zoom into Mother and Child

Discover more about one of Hepworth's most iconic works.

By The Hepworth Wakefield

Mother and Child (1934) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

With its timeless appeal, Hepworth’s Mother and Child (1934) is one of the most beloved works in the Wakefield Permanent Art Collection.

It was purchased by Wakefield Art Gallery following Hepworth’s 1951 exhibition at the gallery, held as part of Wakefield’s contributions to the Festival of Britain.

Hepworth carved Mother and Child during her second pregnancy, shortly before she gave birth to triplets. 

The sculpture shows Hepworth moving towards working in a more abstract idiom. While the form is still recognisably that of a mother and baby, the facial features remain undefined with the exception of the two pin-pricks of the mother’s eyes. 

Mother and Child (1934) by Barbara HepworthThe Hepworth Wakefield

With Mother and Child Hepworth made the significant step of separating the child from the body of the mother to form a multi-part sculpture. The child becomes a miniature sculpture that fits into the space created by the mother’s seated pose. 

The influential critic Adrian Stokes wrote of Hepworth’s Mother and Child sculptures: ‘Miss Hepworth’s stone is a mother, her huge pebble its child’.

Stokes’ reference to the child as a ‘pebble’ is perceptive and emphasises the organic nature of Hepworth’s abstraction, where the ripples of the mother’s body suggest the undulating forms of a natural landscape. The mother’s upright form follows the vertical veining of the Pink Ancaster stone, providing a perfect synthesis between form and material. 

In separating the child from the mother, Hepworth began what would be a life-long preoccupation with what she termed the ‘two forms’ and the relationship between an exterior and interior form. There is a sense of both nurture and of joy as the child perches atop the mother’s knee, cradled within the safety of her body.    

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