A record price for a work by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was achieved at auction in London this week, when his horse painting, Homme et Cheval (“Man and Horse”), sold for £254,500.
The work, considered one of the finest works on paper by the artist ever to come to auction, fetched well over twice the pre-auction estimate of £80,000 to £120,000.
The painting was among offerings at this week’s two-day modern & post-war British art sale at Sotheby’s, which generated sales of £7,698,500.
Gaudier created the charcoal, pastel and watercolour work in 1914, one year before his death.
Gaudier, born in 1891, began to draw early in his life and had a natural talent to produce accurate representational drawings.
He was fascinated by the world around him and studied and recorded many different aspects of his home village in France, his family and different animals.
By 16 he was a highly accomplished draughtsman but, dissatisfied with the product of his undoubted skills, he quickly developed a new approach to drawing, using an apparently fast-moving and fluid line in ink or crayon.
He was stimulated by subjects which were moving, such as animals, and this required him to abstract the essence of the subject in the moment.
In Cardiff, and subsequently in London, he drew animals and people going about their daily work and searched out people riding on horseback in Hyde Park and animals in London Zoo.
On his death, his entire estate became the property of Sophie Brzeska.
She died without a will in 1925 and her possessions were handed to the Treasury Solicitor.
Subsequently, the estate was transferred to the National Gallery, where it was valued for the state by the acknowledged art critic R.H. Wilenski. With the exception of one or two sculptures, the whole estate was purchased by H.S.Ede.
Ede, known as Jim Ede, moved from London and purchased a house named Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge where he set up a permanent exhibition of a selection of Gaudier’s work.
The remainder of Gaudier’s work was stored in a small locked top-floor room, from which selected drawings and sculptures were made available for purchase to discerning friends and collectors.