I WAS in St Ives last weekend, wandering its intricate network of cobbled streets, awash with galleries and art. The region has a rich heritage of artists, none so revered as sculptor Barbara Hepworth whose museum, based in her former residence, is a stone’s throw away from the old harbour.

On various turnstiles and tables, blocks of stone, wood and plaster creations with untamed wires poking forth, lay waiting to be moulded by Hepworth’s hand. In her small secluded garden, sculptures loom and retreat amongst beautiful foliage, giving additional depth and beauty to each work of art.

Hepworth, a contemporary of Henry Moore, was at the forefront of a new wave of abstract sculpture. Moving beyond figurative sculpture, she studied each individual material in its raw state and worked to release its identity and in doing so, bare its soul. She is credited as the first artist to create hollows within her sculptures, enabling light to penetrate solid pieces of mass, thus revealing the contours and imperfections of each material’s inner form.

Hepworth was inspired by the landscape that surrounded her childhood industrial hometown of Wakefield. Her early memories draw on the sensation of moving through the West Riding countryside, on car trips with her father. She was mesmerized by the shapes and texture of the landscape, describing hills as sculptures and roads as contours that defined their form.

She moved to Cornwall with her family at the outbreak of World War II. Drawn to the pagan landscape she eventually settled in St Ives in 1949. Here she continued to investigate the relationship of the human figure in the landscape, the coast’s rugged inlets and the interplay of light.

After the war there was increasing demand for large scale public art and Hepworth adapted her practice and began to work in bronze. This method is entirely different from carving a solid block with tools, it involves working with wire mesh and plaster, to be cast into bronze by a foundry. Hepworth also designed for theatre including the Royal Opera House’s initial production of The Midsummer Marriage by composer Michael Tippet and campaigned to rebuild the Globe Theatre on London’s Southbank.

A unique British treasure who quietly defied the status quo and created a legacy of beauty.

Column by Vanessa Lefrancois, Chief Executive of Taunton Theatre Association