When an artist dies young there is a tendency to overpraise. Pound, however, was not given to that tendency. He saw in Gaudier ‘the most absolute case of genius I’ve ever run into’. What makes this death so continuingly haunting is that Gaudier-Brzeska’s vision of Europe, its art, its culture, and the moment it had reached, was not at variance with the war which killed him. Quite the contrary. The anti-war poets and artists of this period tended either to be of poor artistic capability or to be retrospetive in their hatreds – or both. Gaudier-Brzeska, hideously in tune with his times, embraced the struggle and saluted the violence. The huge numbers being slaughtered reduced the sense of each and every person being of unique value. As in modernist sculptures, men became almost indistinguishable from the tanks or submarines in which they set out to destroy one another, bringing about deaths in numbers which had hitherto only been known in slaughterhouses. From the nameless cannon-fodder arose an inevitable of vision of humanity as something less than what it had once been – of people as ‘the masses’, scarcely distinguishable from one another. They awaited men of genius to lead or inspire them.
- A. N. Wilson, After the Victorians (2005)