Lot 25
  • 25

Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
  • Self-Portrait
  • signed; also signed with monogram and inscribed peint par lui-meme a l'age de 18 ans 
  • oil on board
  • 40.5 by 32cm., 16 by 12 1/2 in.


The Artist's Estate
Sophie Brzeska
H.S. Ede
Private Collection
Anthony Hepworth Fine Art, London
Private Collection


Roger Cole, Gaudier-Brzeska: Artist and Myth, Samsom & Company, Bristol, 1995, no.3, pl. II;
Paul O'Keefe, Gaudier-Brzeska: An Absolute Case of Genius, Allen Lane, London, 2004, pp.45 and 66.


The board is sound. The surface is dirty and the original grain of the board is visible in areas, notably along the left edge. There is a small circular abrasion below the centre of the upper edge which appears to be an original part of the structure of the board, visible in the catalogue illustration. There are some further light scuff marks to the edges and a very small area of surface craquelure in the bottom right corner and some other very minor fine lines of surface craquelure scattered through the background and to the artist's right cheek. Otherwise in good overall condition. The work would benefit from a light clean. Under ultraviolet light, there are scattered areas of retouching throughout the background and some fine flecks and lines of retouching throughout the artist's hair and face. There is a further area of retouching along the bottom right edge. Held in a stained wood frame with canvas inset. The colours are slightly warmer with a more matte finish than the catalogue illustration suggests.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

There is an oil sketch of upturned boats on the reverse.

The present self-portrait was painted in 1909 when Gaudier-Brzeska was only eighteen. It was executed in Paris around the time he met his partner, Sophie Brzeska, an impoverished Polish émigré, and demonstrates the naturalistic style he employed in his early career before he was inspired by European avant-garde movements. This was to become particularly acute after his move to London where he associated with the most advanced circles, including Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Jacob Epstein and Roger Fry, all of whom shared a conviction that he was one of the finest artists to emerge in Britain.

Gaudier-Brzeska's burgeoning career was cut short by his premature death on the Western Front in 1915 at the age of twenty-three and Ezra Pound aptly surmised, ''A great spirit has been among us, and a great artist is gone'. Although he was relatively unknown outside London at this time, his reputation gradually grew over the years through his friends, artists and art historians. Of these perhaps the most active, if selective, early champion was H.S. (Jim) Ede, who acquired a large body of his work from Sophie Brzeska's estate in 1926-27, much of which remains at Kettle's Yard, Cambridge.

In a most bizarre document produced in early 1925 to value Sophie Brzeska’s collection of works by Gaudier-Brzeska, the critic R.H.Wilenski mentions the present work. His sweeping generalisations and damning critique of Gaudier-Brzeska's work (‘The artist who is usually referred to as Gaudier was never popular and never will be’), which were probably designed to justify keeping the valuations low (the Redstone Dancer, now in the Tate Collection was valued at ‘not less than £15’ when it had been valued at £160 in 1918), much affected the perception of the artist's work and it is difficult to not speculate in the light of subsequent events if there were other motivations at work.