Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Mar 5, 2023

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Henri Gaudier, known as Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, born on October 4, 1891 in Saint-Jean-de-Braye (Loiret) and died for France on June 5, 1915 in Neuville-Saint-Vaast (Pas-de-Calais), was a French libertarian designer and sculptor.

The sculptor and draughtsman first worked on a synthesis between cubism, abstraction and primitive arts. Then from 1913, he became one of the pioneers of Vorticism, a British variant of Futurism.

Although displaying anarchist and anti-militarist ideas (he escaped military service by living in London), he enlisted in 1914 and was killed on June 5, 1915 during the Battle of Artois.

Henri Gaudier was born into the family of a carpenter in the suburbs of Orleans. An excellent student at the local school, he showed an attraction for drawing from childhood. At the age of 12, he entered the Ecole primaire supérieure d'Orléans and was noticed by his English teacher, who gave him a scholarship to study commerce in Great Britain, in Bristol and then in Cardiff, for two years. He then went to Germany and returned to France, to Paris.

In 1910, Henri Gaudier's perfect knowledge of English enabled him to join the Armand Colin publishing house as a translator. It was at this time that he met Sophie Brzeska, a Polish woman eighteen years older than him, at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, with ambitions of becoming a novelist, with whom he had a relationship - described as platonic, but often stormy. Not well accepted in Saint-Jean-de-Braye, especially by the Gaudier family because of the great age difference, the couple decided to return to England. To avoid further difficulties, Henri Gaudier and Sophie Brzeska decided to join their two names and to pass themselves off as brother and sister.

Arriving in London without money or support, the household experiences great material difficulties. Henri Gaudier found a small job as a sculptor. He met Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound, and became a founding member of the Vorticist movement.

In 1911, Henri Gaudier fled to London to escape the two-year military service (a duration enacted by a 1905 law). He visited the British Museum where he discovered the collection of African and Oceanic art. In 1912, the magazine Rhythm published his first drawings that he signed Gaudier-Brzeska. A few commissions allowed him to rent a studio and buy marble. He became a member of The London Group, where his style was considered close to Futurism, even though he was one of those who heckled Marinetti's lectures.

In July 1914, he drew up a catalog of his works and wrote his will in favor of Sophie. When the First World War broke out, he returned to France to enlist. But when he arrived in Boulogne, he was arrested as a deserter. He managed to escape and return to London. He went to the French embassy which issued him a safe-conduct. On September 4, he arrived in Le Havre before being sent to the front in an infantry regiment in Champagne. Promoted to corporal in January 1915 and to sergeant the following month, he took courses to become an officer. In June 1915, he took part in the attack on the position of Neuville-Saint-Vaast, in the Pas-de-Calais, and fell, hit by a bullet in the head.

During his enlistment, Gaudier wrote nearly eighty letters, "We have the best Futurist music Marinetti could dream of: heavy weapons, light weapons, cannon blasts... But it's all stupid vulgarity and I prefer the cool wind in the foliage, accompanied by some birdsong."

After his death, his companion sank into mental distraction. She died in 1925, brutally during an exhibition according to some, interned in a psychiatric hospital according to others.

Artistically, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was first influenced by Auguste Rodin but also by the primitive sculpture he discovered at the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. His works are direct, dynamic and leave apparent the traces of his artistic work. Gaudier-Brzeska worked as a sculptor for only four years, yet his sculptures and thousands of drawings have greatly influenced French and English art of the 20th century. His works can be seen at the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris, the Musée des Beaux Arts in Orleans, the Tate Gallery in London and museums in Chicago, New York and Ottawa.

The correspondence of Jim Ede (en), curator at the Tate Gallery and friend of Gaudier-Brzeska was published in the book Savage Messiah. It is from this book that Ken Russell drew inspiration for his film on Gaudier-Brzeska (Savage Messiah in 1972).


  1. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
  2. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
  3. ^ a b Ede, H.S. (1931). Savage Messiah. London, UK: Heinemann. OCLC 1655358.
  4. ^ "Sophie Brzeska". Mercury Graphics. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  5. ^ Arrowsmith, Rupert Richard (2010). Modernism and the Museum: Asian, African, and Pacific Art and the London Avant-Garde. Oxford University Press. passim. ISBN 978-0-19-959369-9.
  6. ^ Gaudier-Brzeska, Henri (1915). "Vortex (Written from the Trenches)". Blast. No. 2. p. 34.
  7. ^ Books in Scotland, Issues 19-29. Ramsay Head Press. 1985. p. 1.
  8. « Gaudier-Brzeska Collection »
  9. Union List of Artist Names (англ.) — 2018.

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