Henri Gaudier-Brzeska



Object: 156 x 38 x 32 mm
Presented by Mr Dermot Freyer 1968

Display caption

This is one of nine casts from an original work in chiselled brass. According to Ezra Pound it was the first and best of Gaudier's experiments with cut brass, which include 'Doorknocker', also in this display. Here, as in other seemingly abstract works, Gaudier still alludes to recognisable forms. For example, from a certain angle this abstract ornament also resembles a human figure. The work, though small, clearly demonstrates Gaudier's understanding of Cubism: after Alexander Archipenko, he was among the first sculptors to use completely penetrated forms so that the viewer can see right through the sculpture.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915
T01097 ORNAMENT 1914
Inscribed on bottom edge ‘H G B’ in monogram and ‘ 2/9’.
Bronze, 6 1/8×1 1/2×1 5/16 (15·6×3·9×3·3).
Presented by Mr Dermot Freyer.
Lit: Ezra Pound Gaudier-Brzeska, 1916, no. 20, pp. 160 and 167, the original repr. plate XXVIII right; H S Ede, A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska, 1930, p.200.
Repr: Ezra Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska, 1957, plate 14.

Number 2 of an edition of nine casts made from an original in chiselled bronze which Gaudier-Brzeska sold to T E Hulme for £2 and which is now in the possession of Mr Dermot Freyer. This work is described by Ezra Pound as a ‘Toy’ but is listed by Gaudier (in Ede's book) as ‘“Ornement” torpille!’ (that is a kind of flat fish giving an electric shock - a torpedo). He also notes that it had been broken; however the original does not appear to be broken so that this may apply to the plaster version which comes next on the list and is now lost.

T01097 appears in the plate in Pound's books (1916 and 1957) with the wider end at the top in which position it seems to refer clearly to a human figure. This kind of ambiguity is typical of Gaudier's more abstract works.

According to Pound it was the first and best of Gaudier's experiments with cut brass which also include T00841 ‘Doorknocker’, another doorknocker, a medal and a very small ‘Fish’. Gaudier's note on the technique is reprinted in the Tate Gallery Report 1966–7, p. 29. T1097 is the most cubist of all Gaudier's sculptures and among the earliest by any sculptor (after Archipenko) to make use of completely penetrated forms.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969