Study for Head of Ezra Pound
1914 by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge
Gaudier-Brzeska was a Modernist sculptor who upon moving to London became one of Ezra Pound’s protégés. This drawing was done in preparation for his sculpture of Pound’s head, completed before he was conscripted to the army and consequently his tragic death. What is so pleasing in both Gaudier-Brzeska’s sculpture and drawing is the freedom with which he approaches them. This may be a preparatory drawing, but it is hardly clinical in its execution — an articulation of brush strokes that sing rather than speak, so free and expressive are these simple lines. Bold, with a subtle pull of slight angles they frame the face, yet slight in squiggles they scribble the beard and moustache, the eyes drawn symbolically like two Chinese characters. One can see how this design would morph into Brzeska’s sculpture that relies on this confidence of shape, paired with the simplicity of smooth stone between each infliction of carved line. The lack of realist detail paired with the organic growth of design fuels Brzeska’s work with a naturalism that gives it life. It is no wonder that Modernist Pound was so taken with Brezeska and his ability to articulate life stylistically in restraint, yet paint such a vivid picture.