Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir Critical Context - Essay

Ezra Pound

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Gaudier-Brzeska preserves the record of an artist whose achievement might otherwise have been forgotten. (Important collections of his work now exist in Cambridge, England, and in the most important modern art museum in Paris.) Even though he died too absurdly young to be a major figure in twentieth century art, his influence is acknowledged by those who are. Most noteworthy, perhaps, is the great English sculptor Henry Moore, who as a young man read Pound’s book and was influenced by Gaudier-Brzeska’s work. Moore made famous the use of biomorphic forms, developing a line of thought in modern sculpture first explored in England by Gaudier-Brzeska.

This memoir is also an important document in the history of modernism. It shows Pound, a central figure in that culturewide movement, as he tries to enunciate his aesthetic vision during the heat of battle. Pound knew even as he wrote that vorticism as a movement was largely dead because of the deaths of Gaudier-Brzeska and others and because of the decline of interest in the arts as a result of the war. His not yet fully acknowledged fear was that the broader movement to renew Western civilization through the leadership of the arts was also in deep trouble, a fear that proved correct.

Gaudier-Brzeska is also a key part of Pound’s own individual career. One finds in it many of the values and concerns that mark not only his London years (from 1908 to 1920) but also the rest of...

(The entire section is 501 words.)