Barbara Hepworth, as my followers will by now know, is one of my favourite modern artists. I find her sculpture full of power and emotion and I also enjoyed researching the Hepworth Wakefield, David Chipperfield’s award winning gallery. While Hepworth’s sculpture is ubiquitous her paintings are much harder to find as they appear from quite short periods of her life. My painting of the Month is Trio (Surgeons and Theatre Sister) or The Conclusion which was painted in 1948 as part of her Hospital Drawing series.
The Hospital Drawings, eighty of them, were all completed between 1947 and 1950, mainly in operating theatres in Exeter and London. The project started as her daughter, Sarah, was being treated for the bone disease, osteomyelitis, which involved being in plaster from head to foot. She befriended the surgeon, Norman Capener, an amateur painter, who gave her access to draw in the theatres.
Her method of etching lines and washing in pastel oil shades echo the starched uniforms of the surgeons and the their staff. She even used a razor blade to score lines in the boards to evoke the work of the scalpel. Many of these drawings and my choice in particular concentrate on the hands. The success of the operation lies with these hands and the tension is inescapable. Look also at the intensity of purpose in the protagonists eyes directing the action, yet at the same time there is a tenderness and delicacy in the artwork.
St Albans Art Gallery was the location where I most recently saw this painting, which will be the subject of another post, but in the meantime I hope you enjoy this delicate and unusual representation from Barbara Hepworth’s work.