Art ‘en plein air’

the summer house

There is a garden, tucked away down one of the maze of winding streets in St Ives, which is visited more for its artwork than its floral attributes.

The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden sits in a tranquil green oasis amidst the tightly packed houses and crowded streets teeming with the noise of excited children, screeching gulls and barking dogs.

DSCF2882
Spring 1966

I am drawn to the shape and smoothness of ‘Spring’. I have to circle it to find the best way of photographing it. Looking for patterns created by the dappled shade.

Barbara Hepworth came to live and work here in 1949 until her death 40 years ago. She was a contemporary of Henry Moore and one of the most important Modernist sculptors of the 20th century. The best examples of her work can be found here in the Trewyn Studio and garden in Cornwall. Her work is full of her distinctive forms with their undulating curves, pierced ‘eyes’ and hollow spaces. The big bronze statues just call out to be touched. Some are large enough to enter and the shapes seem oddly familiar as they replicate forms found in nature.

It is not a huge garden, but the planting blends perfectly with the greens and bronze sculptures. Birds and butterflies dart around and the atmosphere is calm and slows you down as you wander along the overgrown, narrow pathways forcing you to stop frequently to study the shapes you stumble across amidst the kind of planting familiar to Cornish gardens: fuchsias, camellias, ferns and magnolias as well as exotic ginkgo biloba, a Chusan palm, a stand of bamboo with magnificent thick stems, each providing their own form and structure.

Abutilon vitifolium

Sunlight dapples the undergrowth and penetrates the shrubs to reveal the half-hidden bronzes. A small pond, an unexpected scent, shadow patterns, the memory of Christine, an Australian blogger who sadly died not long after visiting this garden and posed for a picture through one of the large sculptures. Her smile seems to linger. I am acutely aware how precious and fragile life is.

Circular apertures, like these below in the sculpture ‘Two Forms’ (Divided Circle) probably the most well-known of Hepworth’s pieces, entice me to create my own art from hers. It was designed soon after the artist was diagnosed with throat cancer.

The bronze flowers of Euphorbia mellifera (honey spurge) just cry out to be framed by the bronze colourisation within the piece. And I am desperate to capture the pattern of the leaves on the side.

‘Four Square’ (Walk Through) is the largest piece and can in fact be walked through, though not many people did. If you position yourself carefully you can line up the ‘pierced eyes’ on this piece to create an unusual image of one through the other. I desaturated this image as I wanted to show off the form rather than the rather lovely greenish blue colours.

‘pierced eyes’
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The patinisation of the highly polished dark brown surfaces produces patterns of greenish-blue colours that are in themselves, works of art.

Many people came and went whilst I was studying this space. At under ½ acre it won’t keep you long if all you are interested in are the plants. The sculptures on the other hand may keep you a little longer. Patience is a virtue if you want to create photos without people in the way. And watching where the sun falls can have you scurrying back to a sculpture to capture it in a different light or angle.

Don’t hurry your visit. This little gem may surprise you.

Header photo is of Barbara Hepworth’s summer house. The sculpture is ‘Sea Form’ (Portmeor) 1958, a plaster prototype for a bronze object. Barbara came from my home town of Wakefield, Yorkshire and the Hepworth Wakefield opened in May 2011)

Published by Heyjude

I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

72 thoughts on “Art ‘en plein air’

        1. A sensible idea. Though I’d disagree with you about it being the best train journey – the Muizenberg to Simonstown line in the Cape Peninsula is pretty spectacular too 😀

  1. These are just beautiful. I love Barbara Hepworth’s oval forms, but you have enhanced them with your sensitive photography and eye for planting and colour.
    So much beauty in the world! Thank you.

  2. I sometimes come back for a look and to see what I said last time. (and maybe be nosey 🙂 ) This time those leaf shadows on the sculpture really struck me and I wanted to see it bigger, but I just peered hard. 🙂 Lovely, Jude! Have you got Oz/NZ sorted yet, or a birthday celebration (or even Ma-in-law 😦 )?

  3. The ‘Four Square’ photos are so effective with euphorbia framed the way it is, and ‘ pierced eyes’-so much depth with one’s own eye drawn to the tree trunk. Terrific photos, Jude.

  4. Thank you for reblogging this Jude it does bring back memories of our 1990 visit.you have captured the lovely spirit of these sculptures

  5. Visited the studio and garden so many times as my father lived nearby for 30 years…always a joy to behold the sculpture and plants and in different seasons too!

    1. We visited in early spring and will go back next month to see the changes in the planting. It is a lovely peaceful spot when not overrun with school trips or coach trips.

  6. The sculptures are perfectly set off by the planting. The lilac flower on today’s teaser post completely threw me as I wondered if it could possibly be a rose. I see from the description it’s an abutilon.

    How poignant that the garden brings back memories of Christine who photographed it. I often think of my blogging buddy called Charles who sadly died. In some ways, I hardly knew him, but in others, I felt I knew him completely by reading his posts.

  7. this is a beautiful post, I missed seeing it in 2015 as wasn’t following you then and also completely missed the repost in 2018. I’m hopeless! Very glad though to have discovered it thanks to your re-editing with block editor 🙂

      1. Is it the first gallery with the 2nd column shrinkage? I think it does which is why I have not been using it. It looks okay though.

        1. But when you click on an image it shows the background for a split second and then just the image and instead of scroll you get next and previous image. It should scroll!

        2. oh I see what you mean . . . . that is odd, and when you click on next image it doesn’t take you through the whole gallery. It jumps to the next gallery. Bizarre!

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