Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Bird Swallowing a Fish

c.1913–4, cast 1964

Object: 318 x 603 x 279 mm
Purchased 1964

Display caption

This work was originally made in plaster.
The geometry of the form derives from the fact that the solid plaster was carved rather than modelled when still wet. This bronze was cast in the 1960s and the surface colouring (patination) was by Henry Moore.


The flat planes and strong lines were first conceived in energetic drawings. They
create a sense of the momentum of the diving bird. The sculpture reflects Gaudier's fascination with both animal life and the mechanistic forms of the new machine age. The abstracted bird and torpedo-like fish have been read as symbols of the war that began in 1914.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915

T00658 Bird Swallowing a Fish c. 1913–14, cast 1964

Not inscribed.
Bronze, 12½ x 23¾ x 11 (32 x 60 x 28).
Purchased from H. S. Ede (Grant-in-Aid) 1964.
Lit: H. S. Ede, A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska, 1930, p. 205, repr. pi. 42, facing p. 180, from a photograph showing the sculptor standing behind the plaster.

H. S. Ede wrote (letter, 17 June 1964) : ‘Gaudier made a plaster which came into my possession and 1 or 2 bronzes were made in Miss Brzeska’s lifetime—I only know of 1 but I think someone must have paid to have it done and got the other for his pains. The one I know of became mine & I sold it to an American & it was destroyed in New York by a fire. I had six bronzes made in 1964. . . and of these No. 1 belongs to Henry Moore, No. 2 Kettle’s Yard Collection, Cambridge, No. 3 Tate Gallery, No. 4 Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris ... I think Gaudier made the model in 1914.’ The work was not included in Gaudier’s own list of his works, drawn up before he enlisted, but figures in the Supplementary List compiled by Ede of works he had seen or found catalogued (loc. cit.). The work is sometimes known as ‘The Sea Bird’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965, London 1966.