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Memoria e Ricerca

Sculpture against the State. Gaudier Brzeska, Dora Marsden, Ezra Pound

di Mark Antliff
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 33 (2010), p. 49

The relationship of the American poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) and French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915) is widely acknowledged to be central to the history of Vorticism (1914-1917), a British avant-garde movement that first introduced the English public to radical abstraction, yet the political dimension of that relationship remains to be understood. I argue that Pound’s involvement in anarchist circles served to reinforce Gaudier’s own long-time allegiance to that ideology, all of which had a major impact on Gaudier’s Vorticist aesthetics. My article considers three interrelated themes: the convergence of anarchism and primitivism in the art criticism of Pound and Gaudier published in the anarcho-individualist journals The New Freewoman (1913) and The Egoist (1914-1919); the impact of Dora Marsden’s theory of anarchist nominalism on Gaudier and Pound; and the implications of these ideological precepts for Gaudier’s sculptural praxis, exemplified by such works as the iconic Hieractic Head of Ezra Pound (1914). Key words: Anarchism, Art History, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Ezra Pound, Dora Marsden, Twentieth-century art