The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield seems to regularly refresh the works that it displays in Rooms 2 and 3. We’ve visited three times since it opened and there’s been a different exhibition showing on each occasion. They’ve all involved a mix of works from Wakefield Council’s own collection with loans from other galleries and collectors.
The current exhibition concentrates on British sculpture and painting in the decades after the Second World War. It was a period of political, social and economic uncertainty and this was reflected in the works of young artists.
Room two is a relatively small and intimate space and the gallery tends to display smaller works here. And this is the case with the current exhibition.
Entering the gallery the eye is drawn to the brightly lit display of small sculptures and maquettes at the far end of the gallery which includes works by Henry Moore, Elisabeth Frink, Reg Butler, Bernard Meadows, Geoffery Clarke Lynn Chadwick and Austin Wright. A number of these names were new to me. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed in this exhibition, so I’ve pinched the above picture from the Hepworth website.
There were other sculptures on display and some prints and pictures. In most cases the pictures were linked with one of the sculptures. There was a monoprint by Geoffrey Clarke – Preliminary Ideas for Unknown Political Prisoner, 1951, and a maquette for the same work was displayed on the table – it’s 3rd from the left in the photograph. This work was produced as an entry in an international sculpture competition organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London in 1952 for a memorial to commemorate ‘all those unknown men and women who in our time have been deprived of their lives or their liberty in the cause of human freedom’. There’s more about the competition and Clarke’s entry on the Tate website here. The competition was won by Reg Butler, one of whose works Young Woman Standing, 1951-2, which is owned by Wakefield Council, also features in the exhibition (3rd from the right in the photo). It’s quite a delicate model made from wire, and I thought it was quite attractive. (Unfortunately I couldn’t turn up any pictures of it on the Internet). Some contextual materials, letters, photographs and pamphlets, about this work and also his entry in the Political Prisoner monument competition are displayed in a cabinet at the other end of the room from the main display of sculptures. The Tate website has a picture of the model of Butler’s entry together with some information about it on here.
There was a drawing by Austin Wright, Dispersal, 1955, which showed figures that were very similar to those modelled in his small lead sculpture The Argument, 1955 (it can be seen on the far right of the photograph).
Conjunction, 1953 Lynn Chadwick (picture source Tate website)
Although I enjoyed looking around the larger room too, I particularly liked these and the other small scale works which were displayed very effectively. And it’s always good to discover works that I like by artists who are new to me – in this case many of them northeners. It was especially enjoyable seeing the preparatory studies and other contextual materials linked to the works and I thought that the curators had done a particularly good job with the exhibits in this room