Dancer, 1913 (posthumous cast, 1967)
About the artist
Born 1891 – Died 1915
Completed by Autumn 1913, Dancer marks the high point of Gaudier-Brzeska’s assimilation of the work of Auguste Rodin, one of the great masters of modern sculpture. Rodin’s book L’art had been published in London the previous year and Gaudier had read it assiduously. In the book, Rodin set the problem of how to capture movement in sculpture – a major technical problem in an essentially static medium.
Gaudier answered the challenge in two ways. Rodin identified movement in sculpture as being the point where the figure switches from one static pose to another. Gaudier captured this beautifully in Dancer, with the uplifted arms counterbalanced by the downward motion of the feet and legs: the pose suggests a twisting and stepping down of the figure in exactly the way recommended by Rodin. Further, Gaudier conveyed a more subtle sense of movement through the very sensuous modelling of the figure, with variations on its surface catching and modulating the light as it passes across.
Gaudier did not focus on anatomical or facial specifics, but relied on a generalised impression of the figure. It has been suggested that the model for the sculpture was the painter Nina Hamnett, who posed for Gaudier on various occasions. Others have commented on the likeness of the dancer’s face to Sophie Brzeska’s, Gaudier’s life-long companion.
The Dancer on display at Kettle’s Yard is a bronze cast made from the original plaster sculpture in the Tate collection. It was commissioned by Jim Ede and made by the Fiorini & Carney Foundry (London) in 1967. Six other casts, made between 1918 and 1965, are also known.
Provenance: anonymous gift of casting expenses, cast courtesy of the Trustees of the Tate Gallery, February 1967.