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ID number:  BIRRC-L0002
Institution:  Research and Cultural Collections
Named collection:  University Loans Collection
Artist / Maker:  Hepworth, Barbara (1903-1975)
Title / Object name:  Ancestor I
Object type:  Sculpture
Date made:  1970
Materials:  Bronze
Measurements:  280 cm tall
BIRRC-L0002.jpg

Ancestor I is part of Hepworth’s Family of Man group of sculptures. It is 280 cm tall and made from four separate bronze sections, each weighing about half a ton. These sections can be read as the head, torso, hips and legs of a totemic and authoritative figure.

The sculpture recalls the landscape of Cornwall where the artist settled in 1939. There are many ancient stones (menhirs) in the area around St. Ives, which the form of Ancestor I reflects. The bronze is cast from plaster which the artist chipped and rubbed to give it a weathered look - a technique Hepworth called ‘textural calligraphy’. The blue-green paint in the cavities evokes the sea filling the pools and caves along the Cornish coast.

Barbara Hepworth received an honorary degree from the University in 1960 and said of the campus “The site has really captured my imagination…I think Ancestor I would stand up to your architectural styles and remain very dominant.”

On loan to the University from the Trustees of the Hepworth Estate.

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