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Barbara Hepworth: The Family of Man


The Family of Man (1970) is a beautiful representation of figures in the landscape and is one of the last major works Hepworth completed before her death.

Family is not only a universal survey of humanity but also a personal history. The sculptures become more sophisticated in composition as they mature, from Young Girl at the bottom of the hill, through Bride andBridegroom and finally Ultimate Form. Hepworth chose not to create literal representations of the world but developed abstract forms inspired by people and landscapes. These nine upright figures resemble one another, like the family to which they allude. 

In Autumn 2016, expert conservators restored The Family of Man (1970), which has been on public display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) since 1980. The sculpture is re-sited further along the Hillside, away from the now mature trees, in order to give an unobstructed view of the work and to protect the tree roots, which have grown significantly in the 36 years since the sculptures were first installed. 

Although Hepworth stated that she was much more interested in how colour was applied, as opposed to the choice of colour, her studio in Cornwall overlooked St Ives bay and she spoke of the sense of containment and security she felt when she observed the Celtic Sea. She described how she gained great inspiration from Cornish land and seascapes and ‘the quality of light and colour which reminds me of the Mediterranean light and colour which so excites one's sense of form’. This outdoor space celebrates the career of one of the most extraordinary artists of the 20th century.