Catherine Burgess began her artistic career in Edmonton at a time when the city was a hotbed of formalist steel sculpture. The Edmonton Art Gallery regularly exhibited the work of prominent international sculptors and the example of Canadian sculptors such as Douglas Bentham, Alan Reynolds and Peter Hide influenced Burgess. While her early work was indebted to the linear approach of Anthony Caro, by the late 1970s she began exploring self-contained sculpture that sat low to the floor and featured pronounced mass. Altarpiece II is one of a series of works that demonstrate Burgess’s mature style. The clean geometric forms evoke Renaissance and Palladian architecture, as well as temples, shrines and the domestic hearth.