Partner Patricia Preece
The UCL Slade School of Fine Art, The Slade, University College London, Gower St, Kings Cross, London WC1E 6BT
Moor Thatch, The Moor, Cookham, Maidenhead SL6 9QQ, UK
Cookham Parish Cemetery, Long Ln & Maidenhead Rd, Cookham, Maidenhead SL6 9ED, UK
Dorothy Hepworth (1898 – 8 September 1978) was a British painter and the life partner of Patricia Preece.
Hepworth met Patricia Preece at the Slade School of Fine Art in 1917, and graduated from there with first class honours in 1919. The two became lovers. While still a student, Hepworth began exhibiting her work. After graduation, she spent four years with Preece in Paris, where Hepworth studied at the Académie Colarossi and Preece was a pupil of André Lhote. They returned to England in 1925, where they relocated to Cookham for Hepworth's health. The two received financial help from Hepworth's wealthy father to purchase a house there, but Hepworth's father lost his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929. Hepworth's father died in 1930, and afterward, Hepworth and Preece experienced much difficulty trying to pay for the mortgage of their home. Preece and Hepworth were closeted, as was typical in those days, and they sometimes claimed to be sisters. Hepworth and Preece maintained their relationship after Preece's 1937 marriage to the painter Stanley Spencer, who was obsessed with her. Preece took Hepworth on her honeymoon, while Spencer stayed home to work on a painting. Preece and Hepworth continued to live together after the wedding, and after Preece gained control of Spencer's finances they evicted him from his house in 1938 to rent it out. Preece refused to divorce her hapless husband.
Hepworth (left), Preece, Spencer and Jas Wood (right) at the wedding of Preece and Spencer
Patricia Preece 1928, pencil on paper by Dorothy Hepworth (1898–1978)
Dorothy Hepworth with 'Girl in Blue, Cookham' c.1928, photograph
Girl in Blue, Cookham 1927, oil on canvas by Dorothy Hepworth (1898–1978)
It is believed that many, if not all, of the much-accoladed paintings of Preece were created by Hepworth. Preece attributed the paintings to herself, with the consent of Hepworth, who was shy and preferred not to appear in public. Hepworth's work attributed to Preece was exhibited in London at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Warren Gallery, Maddox Street, in 1928 and the Lefevre Gallery, King Street, in 1936. Some of the paintings were purchased by Kenneth Clark, Virginia Woolf and Augurstus John, among others. Until 1996, it was believed that the two collaborated on many of the works. Evidence for Hepworth's creating them herself comes from diaries that the two shared, where Preece admits having had little hand in the creation of the paintings.
Hepworth remained Preece's companion and lover until the latter's death in 1968 at the age of 74. Afterwards, Hepworth continued to paint and still signed her work as Preece until her own death in 1978.
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