Prized sculpture removed from Hatfield building now on display at new museum exhibition

PUBLISHED: 07:01 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:27 05 April 2019

Barbara Hepworth sculpture Vertical Forms at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. The artwork is now on display in the Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: St Albans Museums/UHArts.

Barbara Hepworth sculpture Vertical Forms at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. The artwork is now on display in the Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: St Albans Museums/UHArts.

Supplied by St Albans Museums/UHArts.

A prized sculpture removed from a Hatfield building is now taking pride of place in a new exhibition celebrating one of the country's most celebrated 20th century artists.

Vertical Forms in the new Barbara Hepworh exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: St Albans Museum.Vertical Forms in the new Barbara Hepworh exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: St Albans Museum.

Barbara Hepworth’s Vertical Forms was commissioned in 1951 for the principal façade of the then new Hatfield Technical College, now the University of Hertfordshire.

The limestone carving, one of the Hatfield university’s most prized artworks, was painstakingly removed from the College Lane Campus building and conserved by specialist stone specialists and art technicians last month.

The sculpture, which depicts three standing, interlocking abstract figures, is now on display at the St Albans Museum + Gallery as part of the Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 exhibition, which runs until September 8.

Barbara Hepworth's 'Vertical Forms' being painstakingly removed from the University of Hertfordshire facade. Picture: Joe FordhamBarbara Hepworth's 'Vertical Forms' being painstakingly removed from the University of Hertfordshire facade. Picture: Joe Fordham

Barbara Hepworth: Artist in Society 1948-53 is a poignant exhibition exploring a short but significant period of the artist’s life.

The exhibition is curated by Dr Sophie Bowness and UHArts’ Annabel Lucas, and it reunites sculptures and drawings that have not been seen together since they were made by Hepworth just after the Second World War.

Following the free exhibition, Vertical Forms will be re-sited at the University of Hertfordshire in a protected, prominent site in order to prevent further weathering of the carved detail, and to ensure its preservation for the future.

Barbara Hepworth's Vertical Forms in the workshop in St Ives, September 1951. Photograph: Studio St Ives, Barbara Hepworth © Bowness.Barbara Hepworth's Vertical Forms in the workshop in St Ives, September 1951. Photograph: Studio St Ives, Barbara Hepworth © Bowness.

Annabel Lucas, head of UHArts at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The university is privileged to have such a remarkable sculpture by Barbara Hepworth in our collection, and as a treasured piece we are committed to its long-term preservation, recognition and celebration.

“The six-month exhibition in St Albans gives us a rare opportunity to consider our sculpture and 19 other drawings and sculptures by Hepworth, to shed light on this short but significant period in her career and her little known connection with Hertfordshire.”

• For more on the Barbara Hepworth exhibition, visit www.stalbansmuseums.org.uk

Painting Three Figures - Project for Sculpture - a presentation sketch for Vertical Forms - can be seen at the Barbara Hepworth exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: Alan Davies.Painting Three Figures - Project for Sculpture - a presentation sketch for Vertical Forms - can be seen at the Barbara Hepworth exhibition at St Albans Museum + Gallery. Picture: Alan Davies.

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