- Barbara Hepworth
As evidenced by Solitary Form, Hepworth drew her inspiration from a variety of aesthetic sources, including the monumental work of her contemporary Henry Moore, as well as the organic and elegant stone carvings of Brancusi and Arp. The artist herself acknowledged the powerful influence of both the landscape – particularly the ancient stone sites of Cornwall - and its pagan history on her work. Hepworth lived in Cornwall for more than half her life, first moving there in the summer of 1939. The surrounding landscape, with its ancient standing stones, dramatic coastline and remarkable quality of light, had an immense impact on her artistic practice. As she wrote of her early years there, “It was during this time that I gradually discovered the remarkable pagan landscape which lies between St. Ives, Penzance and Land’s End; a landscape which still has a very deep effect on me, developing all my ideas about the relationship of the human figure in the landscape.” (quoted in Barbara Hepworth. A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), Tate Gallery, Liverpool, 1994, p. 81) The influence of this landscape is particularly evident in the work from the last decade of her life, when she returned to explore the forms that had been central to her earlier production, including the single standing form.
An important example of Hepworth’s late work, Solitary Form is an elegant marble that beautifully illustrates her complete mastery of the medium. Carving was the artist’s predominant form of expression and the method through which she produced some of her most celebrated works. The introduction to carving came during the period Hepworth spent in Italy as a student, and it was also there that she was first drawn to the material properties of marble, and particularly to the white marbles that she would continue to use for the rest of her life. However, for Hepworth it was necessary to combine the material properties of the medium with a deeper sense of meaning, as she explained: “In sculpture there must be a complete realization of the structure and quality of the stone or wood which is being carved. But I do not think this alone supplies the life and vitality of the sculpture. I believe that the understanding of the material and the meaning of the form being carved must be in perfect equilibrium.” (quoted in Exh. cat., London, Whitechapel Gallery, Barbara Hepworth Retrospective Exhibition 1927-1954, 1954, p. 10)