Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Horace Brodzky

1913, cast 1956

Not on display

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915
Object: 694 × 515 × 345 mm, 51.5 kg
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1957

Display caption

In 1913 Gaudier-Brzeska became involved with the artists and writers who formed the Vorticist group the following year, and his work was influenced by the dynamic styles of Cubism and Futurism. Horace Brodzky (1885-1969) was an artist and critic, who later wrote of this work: ‘The bust, to use his own words, was ‘cubic’... he has emphasised the planes and exaggerated the asymmetrical in my head’. Brodzky’s bare-chested, heroic pose is slightly undermined by the playful addition of inverted nipples, and the drawings of a woman's head and a fleeing naked man scratched into the torso.

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.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Inscr. ‘H. Gaudier Brzeska, 1913’ with a dedication in shorthand (on back of bust).
Bronze, 26 3/4×21×14 1/2 (68×53×37); a nude male figure and a girl's head are incised on the front.
Chantrey Purchase from the sitter 1957.
Exh: The plaster: A.A.A., Royal Albert Hall, July 1913 (1216); John and Edward Bumpus Ltd, April–May 1931 (38); Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, 1931 (59, repr. pl.28); Orléans, March–April 1956 (13). The bronze: R.A., 1957 (1427).
Lit: Ede, 1930, p.160, the plaster repr. pl.32; Gaudier in Ede, 1930, pp.196–7; Brodzky, 1933, pp.67–9, another cast repr. facing p.51; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1958, p.188, repr. pl.11.
Repr: Tate Gallery Report 1956–57, 1957, facing p.17; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1962, p.205.

The bronze cast was made in 1956 from the plaster belonging to the sitter. Three other casts made about 1932 exist: in the Bristol Art Gallery (exh. Arts Council, 1956–7 (19, repr.)), in the Leeds City Art Gallery and in the National Gallery of Canada. No more casts will be made.

Horace Brodzky, the artist and critic, first met Gaudier-Brzeska in January 1913, not 1912 as stated in his book, 1933; the error is due to the letter from Gaudier quoted on p.13 and apparently misdated (the letter is addressed from the Fulham Road studio that Gaudier did not occupy until January 1913). Brodzky describes the circumstances of his meeting (op. cit., pp.13–20) and the sittings (pp.67–9): ‘The bust, to use his own words, was “cubic”, and in many respects is very much like his over life-size pastel portrait of myself. In each of these works, bust and pastel, he has emphasised the planes and exaggerated the asymmetrical in my head.’ The incised figure and head had no special significance; ‘they were done in a moment, on the cast before me. I put it down to his youthful fun.’ Brodzky adds that as a return compliment he was to paint a portrait of Sophie Brzeska, but this did not please her and she destroyed it (op. cit., p.70). Gaudier made several drawings of Brodzky, two of which he reproduced (op. cit., pp.23 and 65), and a drypoint (repr. op. cit., facing p.157). The pastel portrait referred to above was lent to the Arts Council exhibition, 1957, by Peter Pears (39, repr. in colour; Brodzky, 1946, pl.38), and a smaller pastel portrait of Brodzky belongs to the Arts Council. Gaudier's list of his works includes, besides the bust, a mask of Brodzky in Portland stone, also under the year 1913 (Ede, 1930, pp.196–7).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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