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Dame Barbara Hepworth's St Ives studio protected as Grade II by Government

Dame Barbara Hepworth's St Ives studio protected as Grade II by Government

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 4:21pm 18th May 2020. (Updated at 4:26pm 18th May 2020)

A former cinema and dance hall in St Ives which later became an important studio of internationally renowned artist Dame Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Hepworth bought the Palais de Danse in 1961 to use as a studio and workshop.

Here she worked on the prototypes for some of her most prestigious public commissions, including the famous ‘Single Form’ (1961-4) for the United Nations building in New York. 


The building, originally a late 18th century stone cottage was used as a navigation school in the early 19th century, before being converted into a cinema in 1910-11 and later a dance hall – known as the Palais de Danse - in 1925.

From 1939 the building was used for auctions and concerts, and it was briefly a ballet school in the Second World War. The Palais continued to be used for dances until 1961.

Hepworth had moved from London to Carbis Bay with her husband Ben Nicholson in 1939.

With her growing reputation after the war and demand for more work, she bought Trewyn studio in the centre of St Ives at an auction at the Palais de Danse in 1949.

Comprising the outhouses and gardens of neighbouring Trewyn House, Trewyn studio (now the Barbara Hepworth Museum) was both a studio and home until Hepworth died in 1975.

"Barbara Hepworth is one of the nation's most highly regarded sculptors of her generation and this listing recognises her long-lasting connection to St Ives. It is a fitting tribute, on the 45th anniversary of her death, to preserve the unique site where she created some of her most famous works."

             Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston MP

But as the scale of her work increased with international exhibitions and public commissions, Hepworth sought extra space to create her large-scale pieces.

In February 1961 Hepworth bought the Palais de Danse, opposite Trewyn, and it became the backdrop to the development of several signature works.

Together, the two buildings represent almost all periods in Hepworth’s personal and creative life.

They are also an important legacy of Hepworth’s long contribution to the public and artistic communities of St Ives, as well as her national and international accolades.

Hepworth’s creative process can still be read in the fabric of the Palais’s myriad of rooms.

To create the 21ft ‘Single Form’ for the United Nations in 1963 she laid out a 1ft-scale grid on the floor of the upper workshop of the building to work on its plaster prototype.

The silhouette for the prototype and the grid survive today.

‘Single Form’ was Hepworth’s personal response to the death of her friend, the UN Secretary-General Dag Hammaskjöld, who was killed in a plane crash whilst on a peace mission to the Congo.

Hepworth was proud of the piece and absorbed herself in the process of making it to ease her grief.

The plaster prototype for an earlier, smaller version in the series, named ‘Single Form (Memorial)’ 1961-4, was made upstairs in the 24-metre dance hall.

The bronze stands on the shores of the lake in Battersea Park and is listed in its own right. 

There are also images of the sculptor with other large-scale prototypes of her works at the Palais, including ‘Winged Figure’ standing in the yard in 1962, created for John Lewis on London’s Oxford Street and also listed.

After Hepworth’s death on 20 May 1975, the Palais de Danse remained in the family, kept essentially as the artist left it.

The building was bequeathed to Tate in 2015. Tate St Ives are currently managing the conservation of the building and its contents, with a view to safeguarding Hepworth’s legacy and its future.

“Dame Barbara Hepworth was one of the foremost British artists of the twentieth century. The Palais de Danse studio in St Ives was at the centre of her artistic life during the 1960s. It was also fundamental to the development of the iconic commissions that secured Hepworth's national and international reputation in her late career. The listing of the Palais de Danse not only preserves the traces of Hepworth's sculptural practice rooted in Cornwall but maintains the legacy of an artist who continues to inspire new audiences across the world today.”

             Anne Barlow, Director of Tate St Ives 

The entry for the Palais de Danse on the National Heritage List for England is here

Notes on key works conceived/developed in the Palais de Danse:

Winged Figure (1962) John Lewis, Oxford Street (Grade II* listed) Images included in photo gallery 

Single Form (1961-4), United Nations Building, New York 

A 1963 casting of a model which was a precursor to the UN version is in Battersea Park and is Grade II* listed 

Construction (Crucifixion) (1966-7) . This has been exhibited at Winchester and Portsmouth Cathedrals. It is now back at Salisbury Cathedral, where it was gifted in 1969, in the cloister. 

Four-Square (Walk Through) (1966-7) Churchill College Cambridge

Other notable listed buildings in St Ives linked to the artist community: 

Trewyn (Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden) (Grade II Registered Park and Garden) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1001488

Former Mariner’s Church (Grade II) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1396301

Bernard Leach’s Pottery and cottage (both Grade II), built by the potter in 1921 

Porthmeor Studios (Grade II*) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1390857

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