We were meant to see a performance by Wicked Fish Theatre in Liverpool Museum last Saturday but went on the wrong day! However went with S to Tate Liverpool for an evening visit and saw two Gaudier-Brzeska works on view on floors 1 and 2. Part of the DLA Piper series; Constellations, the idea being that seminal works form part of constellations of works with linked themes or inspirations. Floor 1 had the excellent pastel drawing of Sophie Brzeska by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (colour plate I Gaudier-Brzeska, Silber T&H), full of colour and rhythm, in a group including Matisse, Picasso and Modigliani (temperamental connection there perhaps).
The pastel was framed and shown in a glass box so you could see the various labels on its reverse side. The Malevich of the Woodcutter with Women in the Church on the reverse was shown the same way in Tate Modern last summer. Doubt if Gaudier ever saw a Malevich but this pastel also recalls Van Gogh’s portraits and the communal interest in Japanese prints – linear, flat, but with rhythm, mark, decorative pattern and strong colour. Shows that an artist who is known for his influence in sculpture also made great coloured work and drawing although he decided he was a sculptor – mass, light and planes….
On floor 2 in a case was a medium-sized sculpture in plaster, a maquette for a garden urn, one of two that exist. This is the taller one with a deep bowl and has an African-wood-sculpture influence especially in its 6 legs. It’s always a transformation when work in one medium inspires a response in a different medium, such as when wooden architecture inspires details in stone architecture. In this case a wood carving tradition is reinterpreted in plaster and via Brancusi (another sculptor from a wood carving tradition – Romanian). The next transformation would be to a large stone carving commission which was never completed – Silber says the stone was purchased but was too hard to work and rested in the yard of the Gaudier workshop (would this be the one in Putney?) In any case Henri went off to the front in late 1914. The supporting legs seem a little like the legs in the National Museum Wales sculpture Two Men Holding a Bowl which is also definitely African influenced and perhaps Easter Island and other what used to be thought of as ‘primitive’ traditions. Gaudier described this as ‘a study of the primitive so that I may carve stone with more purpose’.
My aim in this project is to study Gaudier’s sculptures so that I can make sculpture with more purpose. It also sets me off studying Epstein and Archipenko (4 years older than Gaudier and shared a studio in Paris with Gaudier and Modigliani).
Next week – to National Museum Wales Cardiff to study some of their Gaudier holdings including the Two Figures and Bowl ….