Our work of the week is Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s Self-Portrait with a Pipe, which you can see on show at New Rhythms at Harewood House, Leeds until 1 November.
Gaudier regularly used drawing as a means to explore ideas for his three-dimensional work. Portraiture and self-portraiture were one of his preferred genres for technical experimentation throughout his brief career. At the time he made the three Self-Portraits with a Pipe (1913), Gaudier was considering a shift from modelling in plaster to direct carving in stone, and exploring formal languages ranging from Post-Impressionism to Fauvism, Futurism and Cubism (Picasso and Matisse’s work had been recently exhibited in London).
These portraits offer a fascinating synthesis of caricature, realism and geometric abstraction, showing the progressive transformation from a naturalistic to an almost Cubist image, with characteristic facetting of masses, crisp geometry and careful hatchings and striations. Gaudier self-consciously announces himself as an avant-garde artist, an indication of his increasing confidence and ambition by 1913. His bowler hat, at a jaunty angle, and pipe clenched between his teeth display his contempt for the “bloody bourgeois” of late Edwardian society.
Find out more about this work here.