Form and Content

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 427

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was a young French sculptor who came to London as a student in 1907. Ezra Pound, an American poet who was to become a central figure in the development of literary modernism, arrived the following year. In 1913, Pound discovered Gaudier-Brzeska’s work at an exhibition and immediately drew the young artist into his avant-garde cultural circles. Gaudier-Brzeska became an important figure in the vorticist movement that Pound launched together with the English painter and writer Wyndham Lewis. Gaudier-Brzeska was killed in June, 1915, in the trenches of France; he was twenty-three. Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir, composed soon after, is Pound’s testimony to the young sculptor’s accomplishment and potential greatness and an account of an important part of the London art and literary scene that World War I effectively ended.

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Pound clearly wanted to honor his fallen friend with the memoir. The work also provides a platform for pushing some of Pound’s favorite concerns and projects. Along with an account of Gaudier-Brzeska’s career and their personal friendship, Pound also discusses vorticism—the most important English contribution to the modern revolution in the arts—for which Pound was the leading spokesman and Lewis and Gaudier-Brzeska the central artists. Overall, Gaudier-Brzeska provides a helpful view of Pound’s perception of the London art and literary scene during one of its most interesting and important periods.

In form, the book is more a compilation of material by and about Gaudier-Brzeska than a unified work written after his death. Pound reprints Gaudier-Brzeska’s major written pronouncements about sculpture, especially his manifesto from Blast (1914-1915), the avant-garde vorticist periodical which announced the movement. Pound also reprints personal letters from Gaudier-Brzeska to Pound and others written from the battlefields of France. Pound also reprints his own major statements on vorticism, bringing together key elaborations of the vorticist aesthetic which might otherwise not have been collected.

Pound strings these pieces together with short discussions of Gaudier-Brzeska’s biography, personality, impact on others, and an analysis of his work and aesthetic. He ends the book with a partial catalog of Gaudier-Brzeska’s sculptures and a series of photographs of some of them. In 1970, an updated version of the book added later statements on Gaudier-Brzeska by Pound from 1918, 1934, and 1960. Additional photographs were also added, bringing to thirty the number of plates in the 1970 edition. Pound created Gaudier-Brzeska in part for Gaudier-Brzeska’s friends and admirers. Yet he was also, in a sense, trying to create a future audience for the artist of endless promise who died too young to ensure his place in history.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 72

Cole, Roger. Burning to Speak: The Life and Art of Henri Gaudier Brzeska, 1978.

Ede, H.S. Savage Messiah: Gaudier-Brzeska, 1931.

Nolde, John J. “Some Observations on Gaudier-Brzeska’s Bronze Drum,” in Paideuma. XV (Spring, 1986), pp. 43-46.

Perloff, Marjorie. “The Portrait of the Artist as Collage-Text: Pound’s Gaudier-Brzeska and the ‘Italic’ Texts of John Cage,” in The American Poetry Review. XI (May/June, 1982), pp. 19-29.

Wees, William C. Vorticism and the English Avant-Garde, 1972.

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