Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915)
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915)

Wrestlers

Details
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915)
Wrestlers
signed with monogram (lower centre)
herculite resin
28½ x 36½ in. (72.4 x 92.7 cm.)
Carved in plaster relief in 1914; cast in herculite resin in an edition of 9 on behalf of H.S. (Jim) Ede by John W. Mills in June 1965.
Provenance
H.S. (Jim) Ede, and by descent.
Literature
E. Pound, Gaudier-Brzeska A Memoir, London and New York, 1916, p. 130, no. 32, carved plaster illustrated.
H.S. Ede, A Life of Gaudier-Brzeska, London, 1930, p. 200, carved plaster illustrated.
H. Brodzky, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, London, 1932, pp. 31-32, carved plaster illustrated opposite p. 98.
M. Levy, Gaudier-Brzeska Drawings and Sculpture, London, 1965, p. 30, no. 82, pl. 82, carved plaster illustrated.
R. Cole, Burning to Speak: The Life and Art of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Oxford, 1978, p. 93, no. 42, carved plaster illlustrated.
F. Koslow, 'The Evolution of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska's Boston Wrestlers Relief', Bulletin of Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1981, pp. 38-49, another cast illustrated.
E. Silber, Gaudier-Brzeska Life and Art, London, 1996, pp. 266-267, no. 66, carved plaster illustrated.
Exhibited
London, Leicester Galleries, A Memorial Exhibition of the Work of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, May - June 1918, no. 69, carved plaster exhibited.
Leeds, Temple Newsam, Roy de Maistre, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, June - August 1943, no. 78, carved plaster exhibited.
London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Arts Council Gallery, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, December 1955 - January 1956, no. 28, carved plaster exhibited.

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André Zlattinger
André Zlattinger

Lot Essay

The canvas upon which the plaster rests in the carved plaster relief of Wrestlers was first used by Gaudier-Brzeska in 1912, for an oil painting of a Whitechapel Jewish fruit-seller. In a letter to Sophie Brzeska on 28 October 1912, Gaudier refers to the painting as being 'hot in colour, with a dull red sky and exotic palm-like trees' (E. Silber, op. cit.). The painting, titled The Jewish Fruitseller, was detached from the relief in 1966 and is in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, as is the carved plaster relief of Wrestlers.

The subject of Wrestlers was inspired by Gaudier's visit to a gym where he made sketches of the men: 'large shoulders, taut enormous necks like bulls, small in build, firm thighs, slender ankles, feet as sensitive as hands and not tall but they fight with a fantastic vivacity and spirit' (www.tate.org.uk). Cole writes, 'The relief was the culmination of a large number of drawings on this subject which gradually become more simplified. The treatment is essentially two-dimensional and is concerned to establish a rhythmic interrelation of shapes. The flat treatment of the hands, which is a further progression from earlier expressions of the same form, serve to accentuate the flow of lines in the two figures. There is little development of style in the design of the two heads, in comparison with the Embracers, but what is quite evident is that the proportion and natural physical organisation of the figure has been abandoned entirely in favour of the direct expression of the interrelationships of the subject. Consequently this work established a further step towards an original means of expression, in which the drawing and sculpture were one' (R. Cole, loc. cit.).

Gaudier-Brzeska's linocut print of the same title and date originated from his work on the relief: 'The sculptural exercise of cutting the lino block presumably appealed to Gaudier, who based his design on a plaster relief of 1914 of the same subject ... Gaudier-Brzeska's interest in the subject of wrestlers seems to have arisen early in 1913 when he made numerous drawings from life at the London Wrestling Club off Fleet Street' (F. Carey and A. Griffiths, Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960, London, 1990, p. 45). The original lino block print and a proof impression was presented to the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, by Horace Brodzky in 1934.

There are herculite resin casts of Wrestlers in several public collections, including one in Tate, London; one in Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; and two casts in Kettle's Yard, Cambridge.
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