Charleston

Dorothy Hepworth and Patricia Preece: An Untold Story

Discover the extraordinary story of Dorothy Hepworth and Patricia Preece – a duo whose secret collaboration remained hidden for decades.

Discover the extraordinary story of Dorothy Hepworth and Patricia Preece – a duo whose secret artistic collaboration and lifelong romantic partnership remained hidden for decades.

In this exhibition we unveil the untold story of a remarkable duo exploring their life through paintings and drawings, works which were created by Hepworth but exhibited under the signature of her lifelong partner, Preece. Here, the artists are recognised as collaborators and co-conspirators for the first time.

Where Hepworth was shy and prolific in the studio, Preece was charismatic; and together they agreed that Preece would exhibit Hepworth’s paintings under her own name, selling the works to sustain their art studios and shared life. This artistic charade fooled patrons and fellow artists, from Virginia Woolf and Duncan Grant, Augustus John and Kenneth Clarke to Clive Bell, who commended what he believed were Preece’s paintings for their ‘psychological’ depth. Little did he know, they were all masterpieces from Hepworth’s hand. Vanessa Bell declared that the artist was ‘gifted and very serious and needs encouragement badly.’

Influenced by French Post-Impressionism, Hepworth’s paintings showcase a distinctly modernist style characterised by vivid colours and bold brushstrokes. These works reveal a razor-sharp focus, and her tender portrayal of the female form captures moments of profound contemplation. Archival photographs and letters highlight the untold story of the pair’s collaborative approach to making and selling work. Objects document their life outside of the studio, detailing Preece’s unconventional marriage to Stanley Spencer while simultaneously sharing a life with Hepworth, their journeys in Paris and their final residence in Cookham.

The exhibition takes place at Charleston in Lewes, our new cultural centre in the heart of the town. As part of our latest season of programming we are also offering a monthly Pay What You Can Day and a trial Quiet Morning session.