Death of Phyllida Barlow: The celebrated British sculptor dies at the age of 78

Dame Phylidda Barlow, described by The Independent Died as the “Doyenne of British Art” at the age of 78.

The artist was best known for her colossal sculptural projects created from inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster and cement. In 2017 she represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.

“I was called ‘the Mistress of the Splodge.’ [in recognition of her preference for sculpting rounded works]which I quite like,” she said The Independent in 2014.

“But even when critics are rude, they have revealed things about my work that are correct. [The Sunday Times art critic] Waldemar Januszczak once described a play [for a show at the Serpentine Gallery, in 2010] thrown like snot on the wall. But I think the grossness of a spill or blob has its own beauty and intrigues me.”

Their deaths were confirmed on Monday (March 13) by Iwan and Manuela Wirth and Marc Payot, Co-Presidents of Hauser & Wirth.

She is survived by her husband, artist Fabian Peake, their children, artists Florence and Eddie; Clover, Tabitha, Lewis, grandchildren and their siblings Camilla Whitworth-Jones and Jeremy Barlow. Her family was described by The Independent as a “British art dynasty”.

Iwan wrote in a statement: “Phyllida Barlow was both a cherished friend and a visionary artist. Her ideas, knowledge, experience and wry humor have always been shared with the most extraordinary cordiality. Her generosity of spirit extended through her art, her writings, and her many years of teaching and mentorship.

“Phyllida was a truly thoughtful and companionable person who was a guiding light and inspiration to so many. Her loss is deeply felt by all who knew and worked with her in the art community and beyond. Our thoughts are with Fabian and the wonderful family they have created together.”


Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern, said: “Barlow’s practice implicitly recognizes that in a world oversaturated with objects, the role of sculpture and the sculptor’s job may be less about creating things than a specific kind of experience of work, and the world in which it temporarily resides.”

Barlow was born in Newcastle on April 4, 1944 to writer Brigit Ursula Hope Black and psychiatrist Erasmus Darwin Barlow, a great-grandson of Charles Darwin.

She studied at Chelsea College of Art, where she met fellow artist Peake, son of writer and illustrator Mervyn Peake, whom she married in 1966.

Amazingly, Barlow taught at the Slade School of Art for more than 40 years before she rose to prominence with her own work as a sculptor.

Her breakthrough came after her retirement as a professor in 2009, when curator Hans Ulrich invited Obrist Barlow to exhibit at the Serpentine Gallery with Nairy Baghramian and introduce her work to a wider, international art audience. There she was noticed by the Wirths and invited to the Hauser & Wirth Gallery.

In 2011 Barlow was accepted as a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and was awarded the Aachen Art Prize in 2012.

“To put it bluntly, I think the timing was perfect for me,” Barlow said of her late flowering in 2017. “I’m ready for it and the work is ready for it. It is ready to fulfill any possible ambition I wish for the work. Not for myself – I don’t particularly care about myself – but I’m interested in what the work can make a difference… I can now be sure things can go wrong, but they can also be recovered.”

She was awarded a CBE in 2016 and a DBE in 2021, both for services to the arts.

For condolences to Phyllida Barlow’s family, please email [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *