Katherine Mansfield

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Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

“A genius with impossible ideals living in impossible circumstances” is how John Carswell describes Gaudier-Brzeska.  In 1912, the volatile young Frenchman was scraping a living as a shipping clerk, bound to a woman who was mentally unstable and twice his age, and creating sculptures of pure genius.  He had no doubt of his powers: “I understand beauty in a way that was better than the Greeks, and history and observation convince me that I am right.”

When Gaudier and his platonic lover Sophie Brzeska met the editors of Rhythm, the two couples were charmed.  Gaudier admiringly fondled Murry’s godlike head

Further meetings ensued, but when Gaudier suggested Sophie come to live in the Tigers cherished wedding house in Runcton, Katherine demurred. When Sophie opened up to Katherine the sordid truth of her mental strife, she recoiled.

 

Gaudier visited the cottage and heard Katherine speaking her mind about Sophie through an open window.  He left unseen, a bitter enemy.  Gaudier wrote to Murry denouncing the Tigers and all they stood for.  He visited the offices of Rhythm demanding payment for a contribution and later, in a ceremony of brick-throwing, he and Horace Brodzky smashed a plaster cast of Murrys godlike head.

“My dear Murry,

I was confirmed into my thought of the wickedness of Katherine Mansfield by a conversation I overheard when at Runcton. It was about my poor Zosik [Sophie] … I loved you innerly and still sympathise with you as a poor boy, chased by the Furies, but I must reproach you your lack of courage, discrimination and honour…”

The impossible, idealistic Gaudier-Brzeska died in the trenches at Neuville St. Vaast on 5 June 1915. He was twenty-three.

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