Henri Gaudier-Brzeska French, 1891-1915

Born at St. Jean de Braye, near Orleans, he started to work as a sculptor in Paris in 1910 and met the Polish-born Sophie Brzeska, with whom he lived from that time, both of them using the hyphenated name. In 1911 they went to London, which Gaudier had visited briefly in 1906 and 1908, and lived for a while in extreme poverty. In 1912 he met Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry through Haldane MacFall. In the following year he made friends with Frank Harris, Horace Brodzky, Alfred Wolmark, Wyndham Lewis, and through them came into contact with Ezra Pound and Jacob Epstein. Through Nina Hamnett he met Roger Fry and exhibited five sculptures at the Grafton Group exhibition organised by Fry at the Alpine Club in 1914. In March 1914 he contributed to the first London Group exhibition as a founding member and to the 'Twentieth Century Art' exhibition held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. He signed the Vorticist Manifesto in the first number of Blast, contributing an essay and illustration to both numbers. He exhibited in the Vorticist exhibition of 1915. In 1914 he enlisted in the French army and was killed at Neuville-Saint-Vaast in 1915. A memorial exhibition was held in 1918 at the Leicester Galleries.

Gaudier developed with astonishing rapidity from a modelling style based upon Rodin towards a highly personal manner of carving in which he anticipated formal innovations which were common to Epstein and others. He evolved modes of abstraction which were in advance of his time. In his lifetime his work was appreciated by the few connoisseurs, but since his death it has come to be widely recognised that had he not died when his work was immature and still in the formative stage, he might well have become one of the greatest sculptors of the century.

His huge number of line drawings of animal and figure subjects revealed his genius at expressing 'the living and moving body' and he is now acknowledged as one of the finest draughtsmen of his time. Following Gaudier's death Ezra Pound prepared a memorial volume about his friend in which he remarked 'A great spirit has been amongst us, and a great artist is gone.'