Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Sophie Brzeska


Not on display

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915
Pastel on paper
Support: 559 × 384 mm
frame: 702 × 523 × 44mm
Purchased 1957

Display caption

Gaudier met Sophie Brzeska, a Polish emigrée ten years his senior, in 1910.
The two soon became companions
and, though their relationship remained unconsummated, Gaudier added her surname to his for the sake of propriety.


The strong colour of pastels such as this, and of some of Gaudier's sculptures, was a response to Asian art, such as Japanese painting, Tibetan textiles and Russian ballet designs. He was also interested
in the strongly-coloured paintings of Paul Gauguin and of the Fauves, and had
met JD Fergusson, a Scottish follower
of the Fauves.


Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed.
Pastel, 22×15 1/8 (56×38·5).
Purchased from H. S. Ede (Grant-in-Aid) 1957.
Coll: Estate of Miss Sophie Brzeska; purchased from the Treasury by McKnight Kauffer 1927; H. S. Ede.
Exh: Leicester Galleries, May–June 1918 (14, 36 or 73, as ‘Portrait (pastel)’); Orléans, March–April 1956 (48, repr.); Arts Council, 1956–7 (36).
Lit: Gaudier in Ede, 1930, pp.196–7.
Repr: Ede, 1930, pl.20 (in colour); Ede, 1931, facing p.112; Sir John Rothenstein, British Art since 1900, 1962, pl.33.

Sophie Brzeska, a Polish woman, who was studying languages in Paris, met Gaudier in the Sainte-Geneviève Library in 1910. At the time she was thirty-eight and he was eighteen. They became close friends and companions. She went with him to England and he linked her name to his. After his death she had a mental breakdown and died intestate in an asylum in 1922.

This is one of two pastel portraits of her listed by Gaudier under the year 1913. The other one belongs to the Southampton Art Gallery.

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


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