- Museum number
Theatre Sister; half-length almost to front, the head truncated. 1948
Graphite, touched with blue coloured pencil
- Production date
Height: 345 millimetres
Width: 248 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This finished drawing belonged to her friend Herbert Read. After his death, Hepworth purchased it back from his estate for presentation to the British Museum. It was the first drawing by her to enter the collection.
Hepworth's series of operation-theatre paintings executed in 1948 and 1949 came about as the result of the serious illness of one of her daughters. She became friends with the surgeon who treated her daughter and he invited her to study anatomy by witnessing an operation. She did so, first at the Princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic Hospital, Exeter and then the London Clinic and the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Exeter. Hepworth made notes in pen on a sterilised pad and worked up the studies immediately afterwards. She exhibited her surgical drawings at the Lefevre Gallery in April 1948.
Hepworth is quoted in Herbert Read's 'Barbara Hepworth, Carvings and Drawings', 1952, as writing in 1952: "in about the middle of 1947, a suggestion was made to me that I might like to watch an operation in a hospital. I expected that I should dislike it, but from the moment when I entered the operation theatre I became completely absorbed by two things: first, the extraordinary beauty of purpose, a coordination between human beings all dedicated to the saving of life, and the way that the unity of idea and purpose dictated a perfection of concentration, movement, and gesture, and secondly by the way this special grace (grace of mind and body) induced a spontaneous space composition, an articulated and animated kind of abstract sculpture very close to what I had been seeing in my own work".
See also Paul Bowness, 'Operation Drawings of Dame Barbara Hepworth', 'The British Medical Journal, 21-28 Dec. 1985.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1976 BM, Recent Acquisitions, (no cat.)
1993 May-Sep, Cornwall, Tate St Ives, Barbara Hepworth, (no cat.)
2008/9 Sep-Jan, BM, British Sculptors' Drawings, no cat.
2012/13 Oct-Jan, Wakefield, The Hepworth, Barbara Hepworth: Hospital Drawings.
2013 May-June, Paddock Wood, Mascalls Gallery, Barbara Hepworth: Hospital Drawings
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired after Read's death from his estate for presentation to the British Museum
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number