Three works by British modernist artists gifted to the nation

A sculpture by Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), a sculpture by Denis Mitchell (1912-1993) and a painting by William Scott CBE RA (1913-1989) have been acquired for the nation through the Cultural Gifts Scheme, administered by the UK Arts Council.

The three works were owned by Nancy Balfour (1911-1997), art collector and a senior editor at The Economist, who was Chairman and President of the Contemporary Art Society – and given to the public by her niece, Kate Ashbrook.

Hepworth’s Orpheus (Maquette 1), dated 1956, is a bronze sculpture on a wooden base. One of four ‘Orpheus’ works, three of which were editions, this sculpture is an early example of Hepworth’s move from carving predominantly in stone and wood, to including bronze and brass among her materials of choice. Stringed and shaped like a parabola, Orpheus (Maquette 1) may be an allusion to the lyre of the mythical musician.

Trevarrack by Denis Mitchell is a bronze sculpture dated 1961. Mitchell was Hepworth’s assistant from 1949 to 1959, and his work clearly shows her influence. Moving to St Ives at the age of eighteen in 1930, Mitchell became a key figure of the St Ives School.

Small Cornish Landscape by William Scott was painted circa 1953; Scott produced relatively few landscapes in Cornwall like this painting, concentrating mostly on still life. After spending a few months in Cornwall in 1935 and 1936, Scott returned in the early 1950s when the present picture was made. His landscapes from this time show an increased focus on abstraction, with blocks of colour beginning to overcome any sense of figure.

I am delighted that, thanks to the Cultural Gifts Scheme and the generosity of the donor, The Hepworth Wakefield Gallery will benefit from three new brilliant works. Barbara Hepworth’s work will now join one of Britain’s major collections of modern art. Together with the Scott painting and Mitchell bronze, it will be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

UK Arts Minister Helen Whately

All three works have been allocated to The Hepworth Wakefield gallery in West Yorkshire. Opened in 2011, the art gallery was named after Hepworth who was born and brought up in Wakefield; it houses important works by many major modern British and contemporary artists – including Eileen Agar, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Patrick Heron, Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson and Graham Sutherland.

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