Catalogue entry

T03727 Fallen Workman 1912

Bronze, on a green marble base 11 5/8 × 15 1/4 × 14 1/8 (295 × 388 × 359), dimensions do not include base
Not inscribed
Transferred from the Victoria and Albert Museum 1983
Prov: ...; Presented by A.E. Anderson to the Victoria and Albert Museum 1921 (A. 88–1921)
Exh: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891–1915) Sculptures, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, August–September 1972, City Art Gallery, Leeds, September–October 1972, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, October–November 1972 (13, as ‘Workman Fallen from a Scaffold’); Pioneers of Modern Sculpture, Hayward Gallery, July–September 1973 (106, as ‘Man Fallen from a Scaffold’); Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, July 1977 (79)
Lit: H.S. Ede, A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska, 1930, p.204 (plaster version repr. from rear, pl.IX as ‘The Fallen Workman’); Horace Brodzky, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915, 1933, pp.123–4 (plaster repr. facing p.79 as ‘Man Fallen from Scaffold’); William C. Wees, Vorticism and the English Avant-Garde, Toronto, 1972, p.134; Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891–1915) Sculptures, exhibition catalogue, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, August–September 1972, p.18 (repr.); Roger Cole, Burning to Speak. The Life and Art of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Oxford, 1978, p.64 (repr.)

Brodzky records that the subject of this work was based on ‘an incident that Brzeska remembered having seen in Paris’. He suggests that the work is a fragment of the original since the figure once had arms ‘and depicted the man in the act of raising himself from the ground in agony’. This would explain the angle at which the figure is fixed to the base. The figure was made in clay and given to Major Charles Wheeler. According to Brodzky it was exhibited as a clay sculpture in the Memorial exhibition of 1918 (16) but was already, by that time, in a damaged state.

Brodzky also remarks that the arms, ‘which were eventually found and annexed by [Wheeler's] charlady’, were used ‘for whitening the doorstep of Wheeler's house’. According to Ede, however, a plaster version belonged to Wheeler, while by 1930, the original clay version belonged to Ede. Cole records that two bronze casts were made, of which T03727 is one, and that two plaster casts were executed (one since destroyed). He does not indicate whether the plasters were cast posthumously but it seems likely they were cast during Gaudier's lifetime.

Cork observes that T03727 is an attempt by Gaudier at ‘a direct emulation of his great countryman, Rodin. Its forms are modelled with the intensely fluid, almost molten texture that was Rodin's sculptural signature.’ In 1912 Gaudier wrote letters to Sophie Brzeska on several occasions acclaiming the work of Rodin and, in particular, his ‘St John the Baptist’ which he described as ‘a beggar who walks along, who speaks and gesticulates - he belongs to my own time, is in my epoch, he has a twentieth century workman's body just as I see it and know it’ (quoted in Jeremy Lewison, ‘A Note on Chronology’, Kettle's Yard Gallery exhibition catalogue, p.29). The musculature of the figure is also reminiscent of Michelangelo whose sculptures Gaudier had copied in drawings in 1910.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986