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The best collection of Hepworth's sculpture
Barbara Hepworth Museum (St Ives)
Member Name: frangliz
Barbara Hepworth Museum (St Ives)
Advantages: Superb sculpture in both indoor and outdoor settings
Disadvantages: Difficult access for wheelchairs and buggies; situated on a steep, narrow road
Having just a few hours to spend in St Ives, my aim was to visit Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. The two venues are situated a few minutes' walk from each other, and it is possible to buy a combined ticket that works out cheaper than paying separately for each venue. I started at the Tate as we had found a parking space near there. At the Tate I was given a booklet that included a plan showing two routes for walking to the Hepworth Museum, one of which was shorter but involved climbing a lot of steps. I'm afraid I took a wrong turning and didn't want to get the booklet out as it was pouring with rain, and I ended up walking much further than I should have done. It isn't really far at all, but the Hepworth Museum is situated on a steep road that is in a restricted traffic zone.
The museum is located in what was formerly Trewyn Studio, where Barbara Hepworth lived and worked from 1949 until she died in 1975. She is considered to be one of the principal British artists of the twentieth century, whose work consists mainly of sculpture in wood, stone and bronze. I have long admired her work, and I looked forward to being able to see so much of it together in one location, and in particular the place that meant so much to her.
I arrived at the museum at about 12.45pm and I knew that a guided tour was due to start at 1pm. There were rather a lot of people waiting for the tour in the ground floor area, so I decided to go to the upper floor and have a bit of quiet time there before the tour group came up. I would be able to spend some time in the ground floor area before I left. I went upstairs and was pleased to find that there weren't too many visitors there. After having a walk round, I sat in one of the comfortable chairs and enjoyed taking in the sculptures I could see around me. I sensed that the rain had stopped, so I went out into the garden and was delighted to find that the sun was shining.
Photography is not allowed inside the museum, but you can take photos to your heart's content in the sculpture garden. Barbara Hepworth laid out the garden herself along with her friend, the composer Priaulx Rainier. It has trees, sub-tropical plants and typically English flowers, with narrow pathways curving round a lawn adjacent to the museum. It is the ideal environment in which to view Hepworth's sculptures. There is also a conservatory with several works of art, and there are one or two chairs there for anyone who wants to sit and contemplate the sculptures.
When I came back from the garden to the upper floor, the tour group was there. I overheard the guide relating how Hepworth had died in a fire in that very room. I was living abroad at the time of her death and never actually heard the circumstances of her death, which seemed particularly tragic.
There is a separate staircase that leads back to the lower floor once you have visited the garden. The ground floor was much quieter than it had been when I arrived, and I was able to take my time reading about Hepworth's life, including the awarding of a C.B.E. in 1958, and the granting of the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of St Ives in 1968, the same year in which the Tate Gallery in London held a major retrospective exhibition of her work.
There are guided tours of the museum and garden every day at 1pm. There was also a 'Walkabout Talkabout' tour for families at 12.30pm in the June half term holiday, so this may be a regular event. For senior citizens there is a regular event, 'Tea and Tate', which is free but has to be booked. The most recent one was on 13th September from 11am to 1pm, when an artist, curator or art historian would lead a discussion about the displays. Refreshments are provided, and the event is sometimes held at Tate St Ives. The Hepworth Family Activity Trail is available from the admissions desk for £2, which includes a sketchbook and art materials, and is aimed at families with young children who want to explore the museum and garden.
From March to October the museum is open every day from 10am to 5.20pm, with last admissions at 5pm. From November to February, opening hours are from 10am until 4.20pm, with last admissions at 4pm, Tuesday to Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays in winter. Admission prices as of September 2012 are £5.50 for adults, £3.25 concessions. There is a combined ticket for Tate St Ives and the Barbara Hepworth Museum, currently £10 for adults and £5.50 concessions. It is also possible to buy an 'Art Pass', which gives seven days unlimited access to Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Museum, the Leach Pottery and Penlee House Gallery and Museum (Penzance). The current price for the pass is £14.50 adults, £8.50 concessions. Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange in Penzance also give ten percent discount on purchases in their shops to Art Pass holders.
There is no cafe at the Barbara Hepworth Museum. A few books and cards are on sale at the admissions desk. There is just one unisex toilet on the premises. The museum doesn't have access for wheelchairs on the street level entrance, but it may be possible to arrange access to wheelchairs and buggies if advance notice is given.
Since this is the largest collection of Barbara Hepworth's work in a single location, it is obviously a place that any admirer of her sculpture would go out of their way to visit. The combination of indoor and outdoor settings for the work makes it particularly special. Any lover of twentieth century art visiting Cornwall would almost certainly appreciate a visit to the museum, and I would consider the entry price to be well worth paying. It is a gallery that I can imagine I would never tire of if I had the opportunity to make regular visits. I cannot recommend it strongly enough.
Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden
Tel: 01736 796226
Summary: A collection of Barbara Hepworth's sculpture in the place where she lived and worked