Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975) is one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century and was at the forefront of international modern art. Hepworth acquired Trewyn Studio in the centre of St Ives in September 1949 and lived and worked there until she died there on 20 May 1975 in a fire.
In keeping with Hepworth's wishes, Alan Bowness, in consultation with the other Trustees of her Estate, undertook to set Trewyn up as a Museum after her death. The practice was appointed by the Trustees to assist in the repair, conservation and preservation of the building.
It was important to retain the atmosphere of an artist's house and workplace, and not to create the feeling of a museum as far as possible. The upstairs room in Trewyn was damaged in the fire, and though no works of art were destroyed, several furnishings could not be exhibited. Instead, by using Hepworth’s furniture and books alongside her drawings, paintings and sculptures, the estate reconstructed the feeling Trewyn Studio had in the 1950s when the artist was living and working there. Downstairs the small bathroom and kitchen were removed to tell the story of her life and provide the reception area for the museum.
The carving studio was kept as far as possible as it was when Hepworth died, specifically as a stone carving space; the plaster studio needed more shaping to make it coherent, to give it meaning and interest. It was an informal presentation, without interpretation beyond Alan Bowness's accompanying Guide. Materials and tools were left as they were or re-arranged. This was done by George Wilkinson, Barbara's assistant who stayed on after her death, working to Bowness's instructions. As a general rule, nothing was placed in the studios that had not been in them at some time in the past.
The Barbara Hepworth Museum was completed in 1976 and has been owned and run by Tate since 1980.
It contains the largest group of Hepworth's works permanently on display.