One hundred and fourteen

Redstone Dancer

c1913 by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
The Tate

Looking at Gaudier-Brzeska’s Redstone Dancer, it is easy perhaps to associate his style and Modernist approach to that of the much loved Henry Moore. However the date of this piece puts it relatively early for such a comparison; Moore didn’t study sculpture extensively until his return from the Western Front in 1919, an escape Gaudier sadly did not share. So it is interesting to see such similarities in the early work of this French artist to that of the later British sculpting master. We see Moore’s distinctive limbs; large and curved they are dynamically impressive, evoking movement not clumsiness despite their size. The twist in this figure encourages this movement, the body poised on bent legs, as a small waist erupts into the spreading figure above in a Cubist montage of breasts, hands and face. The figure is truly dancing. The twist continues with the curve of the arm; outstretched over the head it pulls the body round, the face exposed, smiling through its abstract illustration in the shape of a triangle. Abstraction, in all its Cubist playfulness, is something Gaudier manipulates here, taking the rippling of life through painted shape and applying it to his stone.  Redstone Dancer could be Picasso three-dimensionally but, unlike the Cubist painters, Gaudier has no need for such painterly encouragement. His limbs flow from the stone expressively, concrete in material but far from it in visual experience.

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