Henri Gaudier-Brzeska


1914, cast 1965

Not on display

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915
Object: 711 × 927 × 76 mm
Presented by Kettle's Yard Collection, Cambridge 1966

Display caption

When the artist was commissioned to make a small figure of a wrestler in 1912, he went to a gym and made numerous preparatory sketches. He enjoyed the athletic qualities of the men there: 'large shoulders, taut enormous necks like bulls, small in build, firm thighs, slender ankles, feet as sensitive as hands and not tall but they fight with a fantastic vivacity and spirit.' Gaudier-Brzeska continued to make drawings of wrestlers in action during 1913 and 1914. These were more naturalistic than the stylised and elongated figures represented in this relief. The theme of wrestling or boxing was a popular one among avant-garde sculptors in the years just prior to the First World War.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska 1891–1915

T00837 Wrestlers 1914 cast circa 1965

Inscribed with Gaudier’s monogram, lower centre.
Herculite, 28 x 36½ x 3 (71 x 92.5 x 7.5).
Presented by the Kettle’s Yard Collection, Cambridge 1966.

No. 6 in an edition of eight casts made by H. S. Ede from the original plaster now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The original is the ‘“Lutteurs”, bas-relief listed by Gaudier himself in his partial list of his work, printed in the 1930 edition of Ede’s Life (op. cit.). Horace Brodzky in his Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, 1933, relates (p. 123) how at one period Major Charles Wheeler ‘saw much of Brzeska and often took him to wrestling bouts at the London Wrestling Club, off Fleet Street. Here Brzeska made drawings and revelled in the sport. The plaster relief, the lino-cut and the other works are the result of these trips.’ (The lino-cut, executed as a Christmas card, is reproduced in Brodzky, op. cit., p. 129, and closely related drawings are reproduced in Pound, op. cit., pi. 33, and in Mervyn Levy (introd.) Gaudier-Brzeska: Drawings and Sculpture, 1965, pl. 58.) Brodzky (op. cit., p. 31) describes how Gaudier covered over with plaster a canvas on which he had abandoned two paintings in succession, and carved two wrestling figures in the plaster. Although stylistically unrelated to the present relief, his lead sculpture ‘The Wrestler’ 1913 (repr. Brodzky, opposite p. 33) is a further example of his interest in wrestling.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1966–1967, London 1967.



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