Henri Gaudier-Brzeska at Kettle’s Yard

“A great spirit has been amongst us, and a great artist is gone.” Ezra Pound on Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

The house and gallery at Kettle’s Yard are closing for renovation from 7th June (so hurry if you want to see them). Before they do, however, they are hosting an exhibition centred on the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, who died one hundred years ago this year, on the Western Front, aged twenty-three.

Gaudier-Brzeska was a tyro of pre-war London, a protege of American poet Ezra Pound. Pound bought him his only proper block of marble (from which he made, appropriately enough, his Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound), but he was otherwise constrained to use offcuts of marble from the monumental masons next door to his studio (under the railway arches in Putney, south-west London).

As a sculptor and artist he was something of a natural; according to Pound he could read figures in odd shapes and bits of stone that no one else could see; he could also, Pound claimed, intuit the meanings of the Chinese ideograms that Pound showed him as though from from first principles, noting for example the sun sinking behind a tree and seeing evening, and so on.

An unlikely story, perhaps, but he certainly had an eye for form. The exhibition centres on two contrasting sculptures of dancers, both in bronze, and alongside drawings and paintings by the artist, also displays works by Gaudier-Brzeska’s contemporaries such as Percy Wyndham Lewis, Auguste Rodin and Jacob Epstein.

New Rhythms is on at Kettle’s Yard until June 21st. 

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