Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and their triplets were living in St Ives from 1939 . In 1944 one of the children became ill with osteomyelitis and needed prolonged surgery at St Michael's Hospital in Hayle.
The orthopaedic surgeon Norman Capener took good care of Sarah and became a life long friend of the artist. She taught him sculpture when he visited her in St Ives and he worked with her on the preparation for the Hospital drawings she began in 1948.
His interest in her sculpting tools led him to design surgical instruments as well as becoming a member of the Penwith Society of Artists.
The Hospital Drawings series is made up of of 70 works of art, the expert on this topic, Nathaniel Hepburn wrote a book which collects them all into one volume and gives an intimate understanding of the creative process during the witnessing of the operations.
The information I have included in this blog entry is from various writings of his.
It has been decades since I last worked as a junior doctor in an operating theatre but the unforgettable atmosphere of the group working towards a common goal , the silent dance of all those arms and hands lit by the theatre lights and the unreal feeling of a human being's destiny being under it all, waiting for us to return him to the world outside will stay with me forever. These drawings have captured the stillness and the beauty of those moments.
Barbara Hepworth, Concentration of Hands II, 1948
©Bowness, Hepworth Estate, Image courtesy of Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert
Barbara Hepworth , Prelude II , 1948
Bowness, Hepworth Estate , Courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.