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Torpedo Fish (Toy), 1914 (posthumous cast, 1968)

Gaudier’s interest in the animal world was ideologically driven. Even though he never really abandoned city life, he rejected urban culture and the values of the bourgeoisie which he associated with it. He insistently sought contact with nature and wished to live the life of the ‘noble savage’, inspired by his readings of contemporary philosophy. The animal world provided him with a refuge from urban alienation.
 
However, his involvement in Vorticism led Gaudier to explore quite consistently the combination of natural and industrial subjects and imagery. The choice of the torpedo fish is fitting. It is capable of generating an electric charge to defend itself from attack. The association of electricity, the driving force of modernity, with the animal world provided an ideal subject for a Vorticist work.
 
Torpedo Fish was made for the philosopher T.E. Hulme, one of the theorists of Vorticism. Hulme shared with Gaudier a fascination with boxing and wrestling – and, according to contemporary accounts, both positively relished picking fights in the streets. Created as a ‘pocket sculpture’, it is not difficult to envisage it being used as a knuckleduster.

Sculpture [HGB 104]

Displayed

Bronze cast

160 x 40 x 30 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.