Who’s right?

A lot of people write about how Barbara Hepworth was the student of Giovanni Ardini when in Rome. But it seems her scholarship was for Florence, not Rome and she only went there after he had met and married John Skeaping who was at the British School in Rome. Skeaping was apprenticed to Ardini who himself was working for Ivan Mestrovic, turing his plaster and clay maquettes into larger marble works.

Ivan Mestrovic – Madonna with Children, 1925

After Hepworth’s death in 1975, Skeaping wrote his autobiography Drawn from Life (1977) where he put his side of the story. But looking at Hepworth’s published works, it seems she didn’t learn from him, but had a remark translated for her. Has this made academics and authors jump the gun and write she was his pupil? The remark is after all, only about the ‘conception of carving’ and not it as a physical teaching. So have writers been assuming she was his pupil, rather than just being in his circle at that time.

I owe a debt to an Italian master – carver , Ardini , whose remarks on the approach to marble carving , when I was in Rome, opened up a new vista for me of the quality of form, light, and colour contained in the Mediterranean conception of carving.

Barbara Hepworth: ‘Approach to Sculpture’, The Studio, London, October 1946, Vol. CXXXII, no. 643, p. 97

I taught Barbara to carve marble. She could not learn from Ardini as she did not speak a word of Italian and never learned to do so during the whole time we were in Italy.

John Skeaping: Drawn from life, 1977p.72

Who is right and who is wrong? I was trying to find any other evidence of Hepworth with Ardini, and other than a quote from her 1952 book Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings there isn’t a lot.

A chance remark by Ardini , an Italian master carver whom I met there , that “marble changes colour under different people’s hands” made me decide immediately that it was not dominance which one had to attain over material

Barbara Hepworth: Carvings and Drawings, 1952