Painting at auction reveals Chiswick connection to Vorticist sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Images above: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska self portrait; painting of Maria Carmi sculpture

Patrons lived in Chiswick Mall

French Vorticist sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska came to London in 1910 to work as an artist and very quickly made friends in a very wealthy and well-connected circle which overlapped with the Bloomsbury Group.

His studio was in Fulham but he had wealthy patrons in Chiswick Mall – Mr & Mrs Thomas Leman Hare. Now that a unique painting of his has come up for auction the Head of Pictures at Olympia Auctions, Adrian Biddell, is trying to find out where exactly they lived.

“The painting I am selling is a west London phenomenon” says Adrian, “as it was inspired by a huge theatrical production at Olympia Exhibition Halls, an extravaganza with a cast of 1700 called The Miracle.

“In early 1912 Gaudier was commissioned to make a plaster of the leading lady Maria Carmi, in her role as the Madonna by Mr & Mrs Thomas Leman Hare. They subsequently commissioned Gaudier to paint himself with the plaster in oil, which is the self-portrait I have for sale.”

The portrait shows the artist peering out from behind the sculpture in a mirror, with a large window behind him. Adrian would like to find out which house it is. Thomas Leman Hare was a publisher and collector who in the 1920s became the editor of Apollo magazine.

“We know that it was painted in Leman Hare’s house on Chiswick Mall. The painting has since been passed down through the Leman Hare family, and for the last 40 years has been hanging in a private collection on the banks of the Thames in Kew.”

Image above: Head of Pictures at Olympia Auctions, Adrian Biddell

An artist who died tragically young, who influenced Henry Moore

Gaudier-Brzeska came over to London with Sophie Brzeska, a Polish writer over twice his age whom he had met at the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, and with whom he began an intense relationship.

He made a name for himself very quickly, becoming a leading Vorticist sculptor alongside Jacob Epstein. His supporters included the writer, painter and critic Wyndham Lewis, who co-founded the Vorticist movement. He made a bust of the American poet Ezra Pound, who is credited with giving the Vorticist movement its name.

He influenced the best known British sculptor of the 20th century, Henry Moore, who acknowledged a debt to him. Jacob Epstein also expressed admiration for his work.

Gaudier-Brzeska worked for the Omega workshops, a design enterprise at Fitzroy Square closely associated with the Hogarth Press, founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and the artist and critic Roger Fry.

“Fry was the Kenneth Clark of his generation” says Adrian. “He brought the Post Impressionist exhibition to the Grafton Galleries in W1 – the first time anyone had properly seen Picasso and Matisse.”

Adrian describes Gaudier-Brzeska as “the Rupert Brook or the Wilfred Owen of the early 20th century art world”. Like them he was killed in the First World War tragically young, shot by a single bullet to the head in the trenches in 1915 aged just 24 years old.

His work was saved by Jim Ede and preserved at the Kettle’s Yard gallery in Cambridge.

“He was an extraordinary talent and his death in the trenches was a great loss.”

The painting comes up for auction at Olympia Auctions on 14 June and if you are able to shed any light on which house the Leman Hares lived in at Chiswick Mall, Adrian would love to hear from you.

The painting has come on the market through Joia Shillingford, the daughter of Mrs Leman Hare’s god-daughter Genevieve Shillingford. The pre-sale estimate on the painitng is £15 – 20,000.