Only a few sculptors and artists achieve acclaim and wide public recognition. Ronald Pope deserved such acclaim - his work was highly regarded within the art world, but he shunned publicity and commercialism, being content with the privacy this gave himself and his family.
He lived and worked as a sculptor in Melbourne, Derbyshire, drawing inspiration from his love of the countryside, particularly the High Peak and the Derbyshire Dales, Snowdonia, the Lake District and Norfolk. This influence can be seen in a number of Ronald Pope's creations - his imaginative use of the horizontal and vertical dimensions of rock formations, combined to create a seamless bond between the material and design of the final sculpture.
Born in 1920, Ronald Pope started his working life as an engineering apprentice at Rolls Royce in Derby. Here he learned many of the techniques of fine welding and brazing that were to be developed to such fascinating effect later in his life as a sculptor. His artistic leanings led him, in 1945, to the Slade School of Fine Art in London where he studied sculpture, under Prof F E McWilliam. He later studied ceramics at Woolwich Polytechnic, under Heber Matthews.
Ronald Pope received many commissions - from architects (including Sir Basil Spence), local authorities, schools, churches, hospitals, private companies and private individuals.
His work moves through phases in his life, representing the harmony of love and caring. By the binding of delicate human forms, in stone and wood, he manages to project the tenderness and compassion he felt for his family and the world in which he lived.
Some of his work in metal (and also in wood), appears strident, but is, nonetheless, promoting harmony - in a more abstract form. Many of these sculptures were designed for churches and chapels, and were intended to promote reflection rather than visual contentment.
His crowd scenes and groups reflect rhythmic movement, bonded in harmony. His musicians, too, retain and project a sense of rhythm - against the contrasting rigidity of the material used for their construction.
Each and every sculpture promotes the sense of unity and peace that were at the core of his own deeply held values, and ideas.
In 1970 the Provost of Derby, Ron Beddoes, said of him:
"The paradox of life is his theme - death and resurrection, light and darkness, order and chaos, vertical and horizontal man. The polarity is calmly accepted as true, the resolution of apparent contradictions attempted - almost tenderly in his paintings and drawings, tautly in his sculpture. The male/female idiom of some of his sculpture shows a reconciliation and unity which is not only basic to understanding his work, but is an essential part of a long-sought and emergent personal idiom of himself as an artist."
An excellent sculptor, Ronald Pope was also a poet and artist. His poetry has not been published but was mainly a conduit for him to express feelings that were difficult to capture in his sculpture:
"…if we are to be concerned with the veracity of seeing - and in many cases mere knowledge pre-supposes visual experience - then 'looking' becomes an act of lucid simplification." (Ronald Pope)
He drew many charcoal sketches, all artwork in their own right, and from which he would select a theme for his next sculpture. In the 1990's, he stopped producing sculpture, and returned to painting water-colours - atmospheric landscapes of Derbyshire and Norfolk.
There were many exhibitions of his sculpture and paintings during his lifetime in Derby and Nottingham, and at the Alwin Gallery in London. Permanent exhibitions are on display at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, and Watford Museum. Many of his sculptures are on public display in Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Norfolk. Much of his work is owned, and cherished, by private collectors.
Ronald Pope died in 1997, leaving a wife and two adult children. He is remembered for his compassion, his love of the natural things in life and his love of peace and reflection - all of which can be seen in the work of a lifetime. Ronald Pope was reclusive, but not a recluse. He simply shunned materialism and the commercial world, and preferred his work to speak for him. One of his favourite quotes neatly sums up this ethos:
"If a man loves the labour of his trade, apart from any question of success or fame, the gods have called him." (R L Stevenson).
Ronald Pope's own message to all was simple - 'be at peace'.