Catalogue entry

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891-1915

T01492 Major R.H. Raymond Smythies 1912, cast 1971

Inscribed ‘H Gaudier Brzeska’ on back of neck, and below ‘¿ 1971’ and founder’s stamp ‘MORRIS/SINGER/FOUNDERS/LONDON’. Bronze, 17½ x 9 x 9¼ (44.5 x 23 x 23.5).
Purchased from the Contemporary Art Society (Grant-in-Aid) 1971.
Coll: Cast by the C.A.S. in 1971 from the original plaster T1160.
Lit: H. S.Ede, A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska, 1930, pp.91–2, 192-3, plaster repr. pl.16; H. Brodzky, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, 1933, pp.37, 76–8, original bronze repr. facing p.62.

A portrait head of Major R. H. Raymond Smythies, late of the Prince of Wales Volunteers. It was the second of two portraits completed by Gaudier early in 1912. The first was of Haldane Macfall, himself a retired Army officer, who then introduced Major Smythies to Gaudier and suggested the portrait bust. During the sittings, Smythies annoyed Gaudier with persistent expressions of opinion about the use of callipers and other mechanical aids, and by complaining that he had made his nose too flat or his forehead too high, and so on. Gaudier pretended to comply with his suggestions and made various modifications which he removed as soon as his sitter was not looking.

When the head was finished, Major Smythies paid the cost (£12) of having it cast in bronze. In a letter to Major Smythies of 24 April 1912 (kindly communicated by Roger A.Cole) Gaudier wrote ‘I have retouched the head so that the little that had been spoilt by the wet cloth is come back again ... I have asked them (the foundry) for a light green and blue patina of old Pompeian bronze, which, I believe, is what you prefer.’ This bronze cast, which seems to be the only one of this work made in the artist’s lifetime, was subsequently given by Major Smythies to the National Art-Collections Fund and was presented by them to the Manchester City Art Gallery in March 1922.

The original plaster remained in Gaudier’s possession and passed after his death to Sophie Brzeska (who died intestate). It was among the works from her estate purchased by C. Frank Stoop from the Treasury Solicitor in 1930 and presented to the Contemporary Art Society. The C.A.S. gave it to the Tate in 1969 (it is now T01160). Then in 1971 the C.A.S. commissioned the Morris Singer Foundry to make a further edition of five bronze casts from it for sale exclusively to public collections; this cast is No. 1.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.