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View of “Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World,” 2015. From left: Oval Sculpture (Delos), 1955; Curved Form (Delphi), 1955. Photo: Olivia Hemingway.

Barbara Hepworth

Kröller-Müller Museum

View of “Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World,” 2015. From left: Oval Sculpture (Delos), 1955; Curved Form (Delphi), 1955. Photo: Olivia Hemingway.

FOR ALL ITS CHALLENGES, the career retrospective has long dominated art-museum programs. Underpinned by Renaissance notions of singular artistic virtuosity and the Romantic concept of the solitary genius, the retrospective’s monographic format germinated in the late eighteenth century, evolved during the nineteenth, and became standardized during the third quarter of the twentieth. Such one-person shows generally follow chronological trajectories. This now-canonical approach assumes that the production of the artist in question follows a forward-moving progression and that the work can be fully understood in isolation from the similar or contrasting practices of its time. No need to chart struggles, detours, reconsiderations, mistakes.

Though conceived and presented chronologically, Tate Britain’s recent exhibition “Barbara Hepworth: Sculpture for a Modern World” was no standard

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