Artist biography

French sculptor and draughtsman. When he moved to London in January 1911, his knowledge of contemporary developments in sculpture was slight. He was accompanied by Sophie Brzeska, whose surname he appended to his own. A crucial meeting with Jacob Epstein strengthened Gaudier-Brzeska's determination to pursue a more experimental direction.

By the autumn of 1913, his friendships with T. E Hulme, Ezra Pound and Epstein all combined to propel him in the direction of greater bareness and a proto-geometrical simplification. Pound supported the impoverished Gaudier-Brzeska in a practical way, too, not only by purchasing carvings but also by presenting him with a block of marble for a specially commissioned portrait..

There was also a vein of impish humour in Gaudier-Brzeska's work. Even the Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound could be seen, especially from the rear, as a circumcised phallus.

His work was illustrated in the magazine Blast. Gaudier-Brzeska's final sculptures can not be described as wholly Vorticist in their implications. One of the finest is a tall carving that seems to move away from mechanistic rigidity towards a rather more organic language. He explained that ‘Sculptural energy is the mountain./Sculptural feeling is the appreciation of masses in relation./Sculptural ability is the defining of these masses by planes.' This credo did not, however, prevent Gaudier-Brzeska from carving a serenely sensual Seated Woman in white marble, which displayed his continuing involvement with the figurative tradition. Soon after its completion Gaudier-Brzeska joined the French Army and was killed in action.

Bibliography
Obituary, Blast, 2 (1915), p. 34
R. Fry: ‘Gaudier-Brzeska', Burl. Mag., xxix (1916)
E. Pound: Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir by Ezra Pound (London, 1916)
H. S. Ede: A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska (London, 1930; rev. as Savage Messiah: A Biography of the Sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (London, 2/1971)
H. Brodzky: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, 1891–1915 (London, 1933)
M. Levy: Gaudier-Brzeska: Drawings and Sculpture (London, 1965)
R. Cork: Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, 2 vols (London, 1975–6)
R. Cole: Burning to Speak: The Life and Art of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (London, 1978)
F. Koslow: The Graphic Work of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (diss., Boston U., 1981)
R. Cork: ‘Henri Gaudier and Ezra Pound: A Friendship', Henri Gaudier and Ezra Pound (exh. cat. by R. Cork, London, Anthony d'Offay Gal., 1982)
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Sculptor, 1891–1915 (exh. cat., ed. J. Lewison; U. Cambridge, Kettle's Yard; 1983)
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (exh. cat., Orléans, Mus. B.-A., 1993)

RICHARD CORK

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