Barbara Hepworth was a British sculptor, born in Wakefield in 1903. For the first part of her adult life she lived in The Mall, Parkhill Road, London, which is just around the corner from some of the fictional locations in this novel (Haverstock Hill, Chalk Farm). She moved to St Ives in 1949, and set up the Trewyn Studio there, where she lived until she died tragically in 1975, in an accidental fire at the studio. This studio has become the Hepworth Museum, and is cared for by the Tate group of museums. In the garden visitors can wander between the plants and trees and discover her sculptures all around them - it is the most magical place. They can also see her work area, which is maintained in the working state that she left it, which results in a strong sense of the woman herself being present as one moves around the museum.
One of her most famous commissions in the UK is the Winged Figure that was mounted on the side of the John Lewis building in Oxford street in 1963. Lexie would surely have covered that event, or at least been aware of it. Hepworth's website has a fascinating photo-montage about the construction of the Winged Figure, including a shot of this huge form being hauled out of the tiny yard of the studio. There is also a page listing her past exhibitions, where you can see which ones happened in the 1950s and 1960s, in parallel with the events in the novel.
A major new gallery is to open in Wakefield on the 21st May 2011, called the HepworthWakefield. It will be one of the largest purpose-built art galleries outside London, and will contain forty sculptures by Hepworth, and many works by her contemporaries.