Maquette (Variation on a Theme) relates to a commission that Hepworth received in 1958 to create a large sculpture for the entrance of State House in Holborn, which she called Meridian. The commission came about through Lillian Somerville of the British Council, who said of the commission, 'for once these architects do not want symbolism or a subject or a theme but an abstract sculpture' (see M. Gale and C. Stephens, Barbara Hepworth, London, 1999, p. 182). In the same year Hepworth also created a similar work related to this commission called Maquette for State House (Meridian) (BH 245), measuring 17¼ in. high.
In an interview at the time, Hepworth said, 'With this commission I felt no hesitation whatsoever. By next morning I saw the sculpture in my mind quite clearly. I made my first maquette, and from this, began the armature for the working model. The architect must create a valid space for sculpture so that it becomes organically part of our spiritual perception as well as our three dimensional life. To do less is to destroy sculpture and admit to an impoverished architecture' (see P. Curtis and A.G. Wilkinson, exhibition catalogue, Barbara Hepworth A Retrospective, Liverpool, Tate Gallery, 1994, pp. 154-155).
Hepworth explained her choice of the title 'Meridian' to the architect of State House, Harold Mortimer, 'it refers either to an imaginary arc of longitude (quintessentially, the Greenwich Meridian) or to the highest point in the arc of the sun' (M. Gale and C. Stephens, loc. cit.). By January 1960 Hepworth had completed the commission and in March Meridian was unveiled at State House by Sir Philip Hendy, then the Director of the National Gallery.
We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Bowness for her assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.