Constantin Brâncuși (* 19 February 1876 in Hobița; † 16 March 1957 in Paris) was a Romanian-French modernist sculptor, photographer and object artist whose abstracted and abstract sculptures in the early
20th century ushered in a break from the representational depiction of the human body.
His art emphasises clean geometric lines that balance the forms inherent in his materials with the symbolic allusions of representational art. Brâncuși sought inspiration in non-European cultures as a source of primitive exoticism, as did Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, André Derain and others. Other influences, however, come from Romanian folk art, traceable through Byzantine and Dionysian traditions.
Brâncuşi's works are among the best known and most important works of art of Classical Modernism in Paris and, along with his idol Auguste Rodin, made a significant contribution to the development of sculpture and its formal language. Constantin Brancusi was born in the Romanian village of Hobița as the son of the wealthy land administrator Nicolae Brancusi. As early as 1887, he left home in a quarrel and eked out a living as a dyer's assistant, waiter and errand boy. From 1894 to 1898 he was able to study at the Craiova School of Arts and Crafts, and in 1900 a charcoal drawing of his own bust of Laocoon opened the door to the Academy of Arts in Bucharest. Thanks to good connections, he was able to shorten the inevitable military service with special leave and sick certificates. An early success was the design of a monument for the doctor and general Carol Davila. In 1903, he set off on foot for Paris, which he reached on 14 July, of all days, the French bank holidays. In the meantime, Constantin Brancusi had also worked briefly in Vienna and Munich and finally, from 1905 to 1907, at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
In Paris, Constantin Brancusi not only met his great role model Auguste Rodin, but also became friends with Henri Matisse, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Rousseau, Alexander Archipenko and Amedeo Modigliani.
Baroness Renée Frachon, whom Constantin Brâncuşi first met in 1908, became the sculptor's first famous model. She posed for him in several sessions between 1 January 1908 and 1910 for the sculptures "La Muse endormie I (The Slumbering Muse I)" and "La Baronne R. F. (The Baroness R. F.)".
Constantin Brâncuşi's most important works were created around 1910: "Le Baiser (The Kiss)" (1909), "Mlle Pogany" (1912/1913/1920). Among Brâncuşi's most important influences was a visit to the Air Show at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1912, where he admired the beauty of a propeller.
Participation in the Armory Show in New York (17.2.-15.3.1913) was followed in 1914 by Brâncuşi's first solo exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz's Gallery 291. With the installation of the "Endless Column" in 1920, Brâncuşi was able to erect a monument to himself. In 1927, the US sculptor Isamu Noguchi therefore chose Brâncuşi as his teacher.
The convinced bachelor Brancusi had an affair with the Hungarian painter Margit Pogány, which later turned into a friendship. Constantin Brancusi was extremely restrained in his choice of subjects, but he always achieved a new effect by using different materials and elaborations. Characteristic of Brancusi's work is the great attention paid to the plinth, which increasingly became part of the sculpture and thus of the art. Brancusi was deeply impressed by the beauty of the machines, whose technology was advancing more and more in his time. He set his ambition on reaching and surpassing this standard in his art.
Brancusi, still a Romanian citizen, spent the First World War in Paris, where he made his studio available to the Red Cross and collected warm clothing for the soldiers. He also supported a charity exhibition at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, the proceeds of which went to Polish war victims. In 1920, his sculpture "Princesse X" caused a minor scandal because the director in charge of the Salon des Indépendants refused to allow it to be exhibited due to its resemblance to a phallus.
Brancusi made a great impression on Man Ray, whose works of art he photographed with such skill for study purposes that the American artist wanted to grant him the sole right to take further photographs.
Constantin Brancusi preferred to present his works in his own studio, a temple of art all in white; the artist was suspicious and rather dismissive of exhibitions in museums and galleries. To pay tribute to this idiosyncrasy, his works of art were to be presented in the studio rooms even after the death of their creator - but because the houses were demolished, this plan had to be abandoned and the objects largely ended up where Brancusi himself did not want to see them: in museums and art halls. Constantin Brancusi died in Paris on 16 March 1957.
READ MORE ABOUT...
180 | Sleeping Muse (La muse endormie) Die schlafende Muse, 1910
What artwork are you searching for?