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Gaudier-Brzeska was born in France but spent most of his career in Britain, where he became a leading figure in the Vorticist movement. Major Raymond Smythies (1860-1939) was an officer in the Prince of Wales's Volunteers who retired from the Army in 1903. He was extremely pleased with this portrait, which emphasises his military bearing and combative expression. Gaudier-Brzeska was to develop a form of Cubist-influenced sculpture inspired by so-called primitive art in which forms were dynamically simplified. But in this bust, a posthumous cast, the principal debt is to the expressive modelling of Rodin, whom Gaudier-Brzeska also revered.

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was born in 1891 in St Jean de Braye, near Orléans, in France. He died in battle at Neuville-Saint-Vaast in France in 1915.

August 2004