Many thanks to Beth McIntire, Senior Curator Prints and Drawings, and Nick Thornton, Head of Fine and Contemporary Art, for giving up their time to show me the stored works on paper, prints and fantastic drawings by Gaudier-Brzeska. Since then I have been reading Mark Evans’ and Oliver Fairclough’s introduction text to the Companion Guide to the National Art Gallery published in 1993. It tells us the new National Museum got its Royal Charter in 1907 (as Wales’ aspirations to nationhood and Cardiff’s towards being a capital city strengthened). The Cardiff museum and library were held in the Trinity Street building and collections wouldn’t transfer to the new Cathays Park site till 1922.
The first Assistant Keeper, David Baxandall, appointed in 1928, was a friend of Jim Ede. Ede had been born in Cardiff and championed and collected Gaudier-Brzeska. Apparently the first Gaudier-Brzeska work, a drawing, was given to the Museum by another new organization – the Contemporary Art Society for Wales (they’ve got a couple of my drawings too!) in 1936.
From Evans/Fairclough’s text; ‘A friend of Baxandall was Jim Ede (1895-1990), the Cardiff-born curator and authority on contemporary art, best known for rehabilitating Gaudier-Brzeska’s reputation and founding the Kettle’s Yard Gallery in Cambridge. In 1940, a year after his promotion to Keeper of Art and shortly before joining the RAF for the duration of the war, Baxandall mounted an exhibition from Ede’s collection of Gaudier-Brzeska sculptures and drawings.’
So when Henri was in Cardiff in 1909 the National Museum had just been conceived but any art or natural history collections he saw would have been in the Old Library in Trinity Street. This was roughly mid-way between his lodgings in Roath and Victoria Park where he reportedly drew the animals in the children’s zoo.
Today NMW has a very good holding of Gaudier. In Gallery 14 last week the south end shows an Eric Heckel of 1909, which is significant in that after Henri’s stay in Cardiff in 1909 he travelled to Germany and was introduced to German expressionism. At the north end of the gallery (in a case with a recent purchase of the Derek Williams Trust, the much later Picasso ceramic jug/owl and opposite contemporaneous works by Gwen John and Derain) are; (all photos of Gaudier Brzeska works courtesy of National Museum Wales)
Dog NMW A 305
This aluminium cast based on a dachshund is like a streamlined racing car
Head of a Boy NMW A 306
Tiny stone-carved sandstone head with traces of pigment
Mademoiselle B NMW A 316
Haven’t seen this bronze portrait head
In gallery 14 again
Men with Bowl NMW A 1625
African-influenced with angular heads and over-sized arms – another of Brzeska’s maquettes for garden ornament related to the plaster in Tate Liverpool and another (is it in Kettle’s Yard?)
The Wrestler NMW A 2419
Large dynamic bronze sculpture
Lioness NMW A 3694
Female Figure NMW A 3990
Lion attacking a Horse NMW A 5240
In pencil, thick soft light line on greyish paper, the style looks 1914 to me, looks a bit like a giant mechanized creature and a little deer, or an alternative title, man and dog? In fact looked at portrait format (correct way from the signature) looks like a man and dog, in landscape format more like a lion and horse, in subject matter it could relate to newly discovered cave paintings in France, or to Vorticist machine-dynamism of Epstein and others.
Portrait of the Artist NMW A 10928
Tiger NMW A 18812
The Wrestler NMW A 19740
drawing, thin pencil line about 45×35 cms
Male Nude NMW A 19741
Vorticist Sketch NMW A 19890
thick conte-like crayon line, must be 1914ish, about 40×30 cms
Profile of a Man in a Bowler Hat NMW A 27556
In framed works store
A Woman Walking NMW A 27557
The Wrestlers NMW A 27752, signed H Brodsky 5/50, so Horace Brodsky printed it and the other copy in NMW which is no. 5/50. They are both beautiful linocut prints with a heavy black ink and clear edges to forms. This is one of the most famous Gaudier images and on the cover of my copy of Ezra Pound’s A Memoir of Gaudier-Brzeska.
(12 Feb 15)