During the Secret Garden Tour there was a lovely garden space that was the largest piece of turf that we saw in St Ives, that was devoted to a garden. The garden had a locked gate, and I got the feeling it was opened only on special occasions, hence for the Secret Garden Tour. Across from the garden a small lane divided the garden from one of the most unusual gates that I have ever seen. Behind that beautiful gate is the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden or also known as Trewyn House.
Dame Jocelyn Barbara Hepworth DBE was an English artist and sculptor. Her work exemplifies Modernism and in particular modern sculpture. She was one of the few female artists to achieve international prominence. Hepworth was a leading figure in the colony of artists who resided in St Ives during the Second World War.
Barbara Hepworth first came to live in Cornwall with her husband Ben Nicholson and their young family at the outbreak of war in 1939. She lived and worked in Trewyn studios – now the Barbara Hepworth Museum – from 1949 until her death in 1975, from a fire in the studio. Following her wish to establish her home and studio as a museum of her work, Trewyn Studio and much of the artist’s work remaining there was given to the nation and placed in the care of the Tate Gallery in 1980.
‘Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic’, wrote Barbara Hepworth. ‘Here was a studio, a yard and garden where I could work in open air and space.’ When she first arrived at Trewyn Studio, Hepworth was still largely preoccupied with stone and wood carving, but during the 1950s she increasingly made sculpture in bronze as well. This led her to create works on a more monumental scale, for which she used the garden as a viewing area.
Most of the bronzes are in the positions in which the artist herself placed them. The garden itself was laid out by Barbara Hepworth with help from a friend, the composer, Priaulx Rainier.
Her eldest son, Paul, was killed on February 13, 1953 in a plane crash while serving with the Royal Air Force in Thailand. A memorial to him, Madonna and Child, is in the parish Church of St Ives.
Exhausted in part from her son’s death, Hepworth travelled to Greece with her good friend Margaret Gardiner in August 1954.
When Hepworth returned to St Ives from Greece, she found that Gardiner had sent her a large shipment of Nigerian guarea hardwood. Although she received only a single tree trunk, Hepworth noted that the shipment from Nigeria to the Tilbury docks came in at 17 tons. Between 1954-1956 Hepworth sculpted six pieces out of this guarea wood!
It was proposed at one time to take up the garden and use the land to build council housing! I for one am glad they didn’t, it is a calming oasis is a sea of tourists.