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Barbara Hepworth was born in Wakefield and studied at Leeds College of Art, where she first met Henry Moore. In 1920 she went to the Royal College of Art and in 1924 she won a year long travelling scholarship and met and married the sculptor, John Skeaping who was studying in Rome. Together they learned the Italian technique of marble carving with the master carver Ardini. Her marriage to Speaking was dissolved in 1933

After returning to London, she moved to Parkhill Road Studios, Hampstead in 1928, where her neighbours included Henry Moore, and Ben Nicholson who she later married. In 1932, she and Nicholson visited the Paris studios of the leading French artists and in 1933, invited by Herbin and Hélion she joined Abstraction-Création, an international Paris-based exhibiting society. After moving into an abstract phase she, like Moore, introduced the use of a hole into carved sculpture. She, Moore and several others were at this time at the forefront of the modern movement in England.