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Ezra Pound, 1914

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska moved to London from Paris in early 1911. Over the next three years he befriended and collaborated with leading literary and artistic figures: in 1912-13 he participated in the activities of Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops and was one of the founder members of the London Group – with David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, C.R.W. Nevinson and others. In July 1914, shortly before departing for the French trenches, he signed the manifesto of the Vorticist movement promoted by Ezra Pound and Percy Wyndham Lewis.

Gaudier, an extraordinarily prolific artist, made numerous portraits of his friends and patrons, both in drawing and sculpture. The brush and ink portrait of Pound at Kettle’s Yard relates to the marble sculpture Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound (Nasher Collection, Dallas), of the same year. The two works are remarkable records of the closeness between the poet and the sculptor. In the drawing, Pound’s unmistakable features are outlined in a few, brisk strokes, with the poet’s spectacles and pointed beard humorously accentuated. The piston-like neck and geometric planes of the hair and nose reflect Gaudier’s interest in the Vorticist idiom championed by Pound. The drawing also shows a fascination with the expressive potential and gestural energy of the Chinese ideogram, which Gaudier shared with the poet.

Based in London between 1908 and 1924, by 1913, when he first met Gaudier, Pound had contributed to the development of Imagism, a literary movement inspired by classical Chinese and Japanese poetry – stressing clarity, precision and economy of language. A year after Gaudier’s premature death, Pound published a deeply felt tribute, Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir. A letter of the period fully expresses the poet’s sorrow: “Gaudier-Brzeska has been killed (…), and we have lost the best of our sculptors and the most promising. The arts will incur no worse loss in the war than this is.”

Provenance: Sophie Brzeska’s Estate; purchased by H.S. Ede from the Treasury, 1927.

Drawing [HGB 32]

Displayed

Brush and ink on paper

500 x 380 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.