Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Bird Swallowing a Fish

c.1913–14, cast 1964

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In Tate Britain

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915
Object: 318 × 603 × 279 mm
Purchased 1964

Display caption

Gaudier-Brzeska saw a bird catching a fish in Hyde Park. Transforming this incident, his sculpture combines his interest in animal life with forms of themachine age. Bird and fish merge as a dynamic unity born out of violence. The torpedo-like fish is stuck in the gullet of the bird, with both struggling for survival. Even so, the form of the sculpture conveys no expressive emotion. Instead, it suggests a detached, mechanical act.

Gallery label, October 2020

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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.

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