They are sculptures seen by millions.
And now experts at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park have restored all nine of Barbara Hepworth’s The Family of Man sculptures which has been on public display at the park since 1980.
Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903–75) was born and raised in Wakefield, and became one of the 20th century’s most eminent international sculptors, shaped by her early years in Yorkshire. Known for being a pioneer in modernism, Dame Barbara helped to change the course of British sculpture.
She created significant sculptures in wood, marble and bronze, often inspired by the organic growth and contours of nature and was passionate that her work should be ‘allowed to breathe’ outdoors.
She said in 1962: “It would be very nice just to put sculptures on hill sides or in small valleys; or place them where you think it would be nice for them to be and for everyone to enjoy.”
The 1970 sculpture needed some attention after being outside and the project began in July with surface cleaning to repair areas of abrasion. The bases have been restored and the works hot waxed to protect their patina which is a thin layer that forms on surfaces of copper, bronze and similar metals.
Dr Sophie Bowness, granddaughter and custodian of the Hepworth Estate, said: “The conservation of The Family of Man has been revelatory.
“Based on newly-developed techniques and a deep knowledge of Hepworth’s practice, the conservators have rediscovered the original patinas, ranging from rich and varied greens and browns to burnished edges.
“Hepworth’s first title for the work was ‘Nine Figures on a Hill’ and she had a great desire to see her works in the landscape to be enjoyed by as wide a public as possible.
“The setting on the hillside at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Hepworth’s birthplace and in the Yorkshire landscape she loved, is surely the ideal one.”
Comprising nine individual bronze sculptures, The Family of Man represents figures in the landscape.
The sculpture has been re-sited further along the hillside in order to give an unobstructed view of it.