Monday, July 26, 2010

Picture of the Week No.28 - Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was one of the most talented artist's working in London before the first world war and was part of the Vorticist circle that included Jacob Epstein, Percy Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound an was a founding member of the London Group of artists. Born in France, he eventually left for England in 1911 to with Sophie Brzeska, a Polish woman twenty years his senior whom he had met in a library and whose name he adopted, in order to become an artist. He never took any formal training but his work was of the highest quality.
Gaudier-Brzeska's sculpture was rough-hewn and distinct, originally taking inspiration from Rodin then from African carvings and other ethnic sculpture. His draughtsmanship was marked by his exquisite use of line and was informed by Chinese calligraphy that he had been exposed to by Ezra Pound. This week's picture is a good example of how much control over line he had, with a fine portrait of Mrs. Alfred Womack.

He joined the French Army and was killed in the trenches in June 1915. His achievement has been overshadowed by his colourful life, as featured in Ken Russell’s film Savage Messiah. KP

Mrs. Alfred Wolmark, 1912

Entry from the Watercolour Catalogue:pencil on paper, 34.5 ´ 24.4 cm
inscribed: Mrs Wolmark, Brzeska drawing 1912

Accession Number: P.178

The sitter was the wife of Alfred Wolmark (1877-1961), a painter, designer of pottery and stained glass who was a friend of the artist. He encouraged the young artist and often sat for him. Gaudier-Brzeska returned the complement.

This simplified, linear drawing is typical of Gaudier-Brzeska’s style. It dates from the same year as a painting of Mrs Wolmark exhibited at the Leicester Galleries in 1958.

PROVENANCE: Wolmark Collection; Lord’s Art Gallery, from whom purchased by Gallery, December 1957.
EXHIBITIONS: Portrait Paintings and Drawings, Rye, Rye Art Gallery, 1967; The English Tradition: an exhibition of watercolours from two private collections, Bedford, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, 1972, no.39.
REFERENCES: R. Cole, Gaudier-Brzeska: Artist and Myth, 1995, p.65.

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