‘The Sun, Moon & Stars’: Barbara Hepworth at Churchill College

13th January 2017 in Archives Centre, Art & Exhibitions, Our Collections

The first in a series of occasional blog posts on women in the Churchill Archive Centre’s collections.

 

CCPP 1 10 5 10b, sketch by Hepworth

 

Sketch enclosed in letter from Barbara Hepworth to Kenneth McQuillen, 8th October 1967. College archives, CCPP 1/10/5. © Bowness.

Churchill College holds one of four casts of Barbara Hepworth’s monumental work ‘Four Square (Walk Through)’. It replaced an earlier two-dimensional work, ‘Squares with Two Circles’, which had been sold to a private collector, leaving a space for a sculpture on the site. This was the source of much dismay among Churchill’s undergraduates, who arranged a pile of bricks in the form of a "mini-Hepworth" on the empty plinth one night after a formal dinner as a tribute.

CCPP 1 10 5 10a, bricks

 

The undergraduates' tribute to Barbara Hepworth's original work, built, according to the student photographer Andrew McKernan, the night before Hepworth came to view her new sculpture. "The college officials were embarrassed – but Barbara thought it delightful". College archives, CCPP 1/10/5. © Andrew McKernan.

In October Hepworth wrote to Churchill’s Acting Master, her friend Dr. Kenneth McQuillen:

"I have just had cast a new work which I feel would be even better for your wonderful site. You can walk through it. It has no front and no back! Walking through is lovely as one can lean out through the lower circles & survey the landscape, or look up to the high circles & see the clouds, the sun, moon & stars."

Hepworth did not see her work in situ at Churchill, having been confined to her bed in St. Ives during the mid-1960s by a series of illnesses. Yet as she told Dr. McQuillen, in finishing the new piece she felt she had managed to "recapture the joy of quiet work & a tempo akin to 1930 when one thought one would live forever!"

Kenneth McQuillen’s correspondence with Barbara Hepworth is preserved in the College Archive, where it is open to researchers.

— Heidi Egginton, Archives Assistant


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