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Constantin Brancusi Photo

Constantin Brancusi

French-Romanian Photographer and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Dada, Cubism

Born: February 19, 1876 - Hobitza, Romania

Died: March 16, 1957 - Paris, France

Constantin Brancusi Timeline

Important Art by Constantin Brancusi

The below artworks are the most important by Constantin Brancusi - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

The Kiss (1916)
Artwork Images

The Kiss (1916)

Artwork description & Analysis: Brancusi's first version of The Kiss, created in 1907, marked a major departure from the emotive realism of Rodin's famous handling of the same subject. This 1916 version is the most geometric of Brancusi's series, reflecting the influence of Cubism in its sharply defined corners. Its composition, texture, and material highlight Brancusi's fascination with both the forms and spirituality of African, Assyrian, and Egyptian art. That attraction also led Brancusi to craft The Kiss using direct carving, a technique that had become popular in France at the time due to an interest in "primitive" methods. These sculptures signify his shift toward simplified forms, as well as his interest in contrasting textures - both key aspects of his later work.

Limestone - Philadelphia Museum of Art

Sleeping Muse I (1909-10)
Artwork Images

Sleeping Muse I (1909-10)

Artwork description & Analysis: Portraits, heads, and busts were frequent subjects for Brancusi, and he received several commissions for such work. With Sleeping Muse I, modeled on the Baroness Renee-Irana Frachon, Brancusi developed a distinctive form of the portrait bust, representing only its sitter's disembodied head. This work was Brancusi's first handling of the sleeping head, a thematic cycle that occupied the artist for roughly twenty years. The smoothness of the piece, achieved by the artist's practice of polishing the surface of his sculptures until they achieved a high gleam, contrasts with the carved definition of the sitter's facial features.

Marble - Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Endless Column (1918)
Artwork Images

Endless Column (1918)

Artwork description & Analysis: In this, the first of Brancusi's several variations of Endless Column, he references the axis mundi, or axis of the world, a concept crucial to the beliefs of many traditional cultures embodying the connection between heaven and earth. This focus reflected Brancusi's strong and persistent affinity for the sacred, cosmic, and mythical. Endless Column also treats another theme of Brancusi's work, the idea of infinity, here suggested by the repetition of identical rhomboid shapes. The most famous of Brancusi's Endless Columns was the version that served as the centerpiece of the tripartite sculptural memorial to fallen soldiers in World War I erected in Tirgu-Jiu, Romania in 1935.

Oak - Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Sorceress (1916-24)
Artwork Images

The Sorceress (1916-24)

Artwork description & Analysis: Romanian culture had a great influence on Brancusi, particularly its woodcarving traditions and mystical folklore. Although he generally did not cite specific references for his works, The Sorceress, which was carved from a portion of a tree trunk where three branches met, is said to have been inspired by a flying witch from a Romanian folktale. He also drew on African tribal art for his woodcarvings, partially influenced by the example of Paul Gauguin. As with the present work, the base foundations were important elements of Brancusi's sculptures; hand-carved by the artist, his bases were intended as artworks in their own right - a truly innovative concept in the history of sculpture, upending the centuries-old tradition of distinguishing between a sculptural artwork and the base on which it stands.

Walnut on limestone base - Guggenheim Museum, New York

Fish (1926)
Artwork Images

Fish (1926)

Artwork description & Analysis: Animals, particularly those with transformative powers in myths, were a source of fascination for Brancusi. He made numerous sculptures of fish, birds, seals, and swans. For his fish, rather than sculpting scales and fins, he endeavored to capture the animal's essential qualities - its "speed, its floating, flashing body seen through water... just the flash of its spirit." As in this piece, Brancusi often juxtaposed diverse textures, colors, and forms, using media such as bronze, limestone, marble, and oak. The bronze fish sits on a wooden base, topped by a mirror, which functions as an integral part of the artwork itself - evoking the fish's habitat, a body of water, whose reflective quality reflects the sense of infinity Brancusi often sought to capture in his work. The mirror-wood base also functions as structural support, as without it, the fish could not "stand" upright but would have to lay on its side.

Bronze, metal, and wood - The Tate Collection, London, UK

Bird in Space (1928)
Artwork Images

Bird in Space (1928)

Artwork description & Analysis: Bird imagery constituted a major part of Brancusi's work for much of his career. Beginning with his 1910 Maiastra sculptures, based on a magical bird from Romanian folklore, he proceeded to works such as Magic Bird and Golden Bird. However, it was his many variations of Bird in Space that comprised his best-known treatments of this theme. In these intensely polished works, Brancusi dispenses with the bird's physical attributes, focusing instead on capturing "the essence of flight," through elongated, slightly tapering figures that suggest the bird's swift, upward movement.

Bronze - Museum of Modern Art, New York



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Constantin Brancusi Photo

Related Art and Artists

Vision After the Sermon (Jacob's Fight with the Angel) (1888)

Vision After the Sermon (Jacob's Fight with the Angel) (1888)

Artist: Paul Gauguin

Artwork description & Analysis: Vision after the Sermon represents a significant departure from the subject matter of Impressionism, namely the city or rural landscape, which was still quite prevalent in Europe and the United States during the last two decades of the 19th century. Instead of choosing to paint pastoral landscape or urban entertainments, Gauguin depicted a rural Biblical scene of praying women envisioning Jacob wrestling with an angel. The decision to paint a religious subject was reminiscent of the Renaissance tradition, yet Gauguin rendered his subject in a decidedly modern style derived in part from Japanese prints, his own experiments in ceramics, stained-glass window methods, and other popular and "high art" traditions, finally emphasizing bold outlines and flat areas of color.

Oil on canvas - National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Fountain (1917)
Artwork Images

Fountain (1917)

Artist: Marcel Duchamp

Artwork description & Analysis: The most notorious of the readymades, Fountain was submitted to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists under the pseudonym R. Mutt. The initial R stood for Richard, French slang for "moneybags" whereas Mutt referred to JL Mott Ironworks, the New York-based company, which manufactured the porcelain urinal. After the work had been rejected by the Society on the grounds that it was immoral, critics who championed it disputed this claim, arguing that an object was invested with new significance when selected by an artist for display. Testing the limits of what constitutes a work of art, Fountain staked new grounds. What started off as an elaborate prank designed to poke fun at American avant-garde art, proved to be one of most influential artworks of the 20th century.

Urinal - Philadelphia Museum of Art

Three Women (Le Grand Déjeuner) (1921)
Artwork Images

Three Women (Le Grand Déjeuner) (1921)

Artist: Fernand Léger

Artwork description & Analysis: This is one of Léger's best-known paintings. In it he retreats from the experimentation with dissonance and collage-like space that he utilized in The City. The work is a culmination of several interests in the previous decade with its depiction of three-dimensionality, its mechanical human figures, and its primary colors. The subject matter of three nude women, however, is one of the most traditional in the history of art. In part for this reason, the painting is often seen as a classic example of what is known as a "return to order" that was typical of many artists in the early 1920s as they retreated from some of their bolder pre-World War I experiments with form, space, and subject matter. Though the subject matter is not contemporary as in The Card Players, Léger is not abandoning his interest in everyday people, but is instead responding to a culture-wide interest in past art with the re-opening of the Musée de Cluny and the expansion of the Louvre to include Egyptian and Assyrian rooms.

Oil on canvas - MOMA, New York

Untitled (1973)
Artwork Images

Untitled (1973)

Artist: Donald Judd

Artwork description & Analysis: This work is comprised of six identical, separate units with equal space in between each one. Although Untitled would seem to be part of a continuum, Judd believed that his works should be "seen as a whole" rather than as a composition of parts, and was convinced that color, shape, and surface created a unitary character; there is no hierarchy of forms or focal point as in more traditional works -- only repetition and rhythm created by the repetition. Here, Judd has begun working with Plexiglas and has combined it with a highly polished, reflective metal -- brass. This juxtaposition gives the viewer two very different experiences; on the one hand, the brass turns the observer's gaze outwards as it doubles both their own image and the space around them, while on the other, the transparent, yet richly colored Plexiglas draws the viewer's attention to the interior of the forms. The photograph of the work as reproduced here has been taken from an angle, but in actuality the viewer has a choice of point of view and distance from the piece. Changing either of these two variables changes the shapes and proportional relationships between the brass surfaces and those of the red Plexiglas. The viewer is also forced to confront the paradox of the unreal distortions reflected in the shiny brass surface versus the insistent reality of the units as things-in-themselves. Although the boxes are no longer placed on the floor, they still exist as objects in space, ones that impinge upon the viewer's own corporeal presence.

Brass and red florescent Plexiglas, 6 units with 8 inch intervals, each unit 86.4 cm - Guggenheim, New York

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