University Art Collection

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (France, 1891-1915)

Gaudier-Brzeska was a sculptor and draughtsman born in St-Jean-de-Braye, France but was active in England for most of his short but very prolific and impactful career. Before settling in England, he lived in Germany and then Paris, where he began to sculpt, later meeting the Polish writer Sophie Brzeska, with whom he lived with until his death and adding her surname to his. He became a friend of Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, Jacob Epstein, T.E. Hulme, and other leading artistic and literary figures in England and in 1913 would become a founding member of The London Group and participate in the only Vorticist exhibition in 1915. In 1914, Gaudier-Brzeska enlists in the French army and is killed in action the following year, aged 23.

Despite never meeting him personally, Jim Ede would find Gaudier-Brzeska’s work whilst working at Tate and did all in his power to champion his work, most notably by purchasing Gaudier-Brzeska’s state using a third of his annual income in 1927. In 1930, Jim Ede would use Gaudier-Brzeska’s letters addressed to Sophie and his friends as the basis for his memoir on the artist, first published as a limited edition as A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska, and later re-titled Savage Messiah and published in the United States and Britain. In 1966, following the donation of 22 artworks to the University of Essex, Ede would add to his already generous donation a group of Gaudier-Brzeska’s letters. 

Image: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska , Birds in the Chinese manner, ink on paper. Donated by Jim Ede, 1964.