Barbara Hepworth

Tate finally gets some of Hepworth archive

After much controversy surrounding the archives release, Sir Alan Bowness releases part of the archive to Tate

Twenty-one years after the sculptress’s death, the first part of the Hepworth archive is finally to be presented to the Tate. Sir Alan Bowness, (her son-in-law and executor), promises that the papers will be handed over to the Tate Archive on 1 July. He says that the papers, which mainly deal with the last fifteen years of her artistic work, represent “One of the richest archives of a twentieth-century British artist”. The fate of the Hepworth archive has been a long-running controversy, with some art historians and biographers angry at the delay in gaining access. Sir Alan says that he has acted quite correctly, although he is retaining various categories of the papers, including Ben Nicholson’s letters to the sculptress. Some of this material will be given to the Tate later, but not until Sir Alan’s book on Hepworth is published. “I told Barbara that I might well not be able to write the book she wanted me to do for twenty years”, he said, “It was understood between us that I would have first use of the archival material”. The two-volume publication should appear in 1998. Apparently, Hepworth’s will is ambiguous about her wishes. She gave the Tate “all correspondence of potential historic interest”, provided that “they do not make this available to anyone for a period of ten years from my death”. This leaves it unclear whether Hepworth expected the papers to be deposited at the Tate Archive within a decade of her death.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 59 May 1996