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Sunday 30 September 2018
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Dancer, 1913 (posthumous cast, 1967)

Completed by Autumn 1913, Dancer marks the high point of Gaudier-Brzeska’s assimilation of the work of Auguste Rodin, one of the great masters of modern sculpture. Rodin’s book L’art had been published in London the previous year and Gaudier had read it assiduously. In the book, Rodin set the problem of how to capture movement in sculpture – a major technical problem in an essentially static medium.

Gaudier answered the challenge in two ways. Rodin identified movement in sculpture as being the point where the figure switches from one static pose to another. Gaudier captured this beautifully in Dancer, with the uplifted arms counterbalanced by the downward motion of the feet and legs: the pose suggests a twisting and stepping down of the figure in exactly the way recommended by Rodin. Further, Gaudier conveyed a more subtle sense of movement through the very sensuous modelling of the figure, with variations on its surface catching and modulating the light as it passes across.

Gaudier did not focus on anatomical or facial specifics, but relied on a generalised impression of the figure. It has been suggested that the model for the sculpture was the painter Nina Hamnett, who posed for Gaudier on various occasions. Others have commented on the likeness of the dancer’s face to Sophie Brzeska’s, Gaudier’s life-long companion.

The Dancer on display at Kettle’s Yard is a bronze cast made from the original plaster sculpture in the Tate collection. It was commissioned by Jim Ede and made by the Fiorini & Carney Foundry (London) in 1967. Six other casts, made between 1918 and 1965, are also known.

Provenance: anonymous gift of casting expenses, cast courtesy of the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, February 1967.

Sculpture [HGB 19]

Displayed

Bronze cast

765 x 220 x 210 mm

About the artist

Henri Gaudier was born in St. Jean de Braye, near Orleans, in France. He first came to Britain in 1908. He met Sophie Brzeska while working as a student in the evenings at Ste. Genevieve Library in Paris in 1910. In the same year he left France under a cloud of social hostility and settled in England adding the name Brzeska to his own soon after. He worked in isolation until he met Middleton Murray in 1912, whereafter he built up a circle of artists and intellectuals which included Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis and T. E. Hulme. He became involved in Pound's and Lewis' Vorticist group, contributing to the two issues of their magazine Blast. Gaudier was killed in action during the First World War in Belgium.