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Artists Constantin Brancusi
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

Quotes

"They are imbeciles who call my work abstract; that which they call abstract is the most realistic, because what is real is not the exterior form but the idea, the essence of things."
Constantin Brancusi
"Simplicity is not an end in art, but we usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things."
Constantin Brancusi
"Don't look for obscure formulas or mystery in my work. It is pure joy that I offer you. Look at my sculptures until you see them. Those closest to God have seen them."
Constantin Brancusi
"Matter must continue its natural life when modified by the hand of the sculptor."
Constantin Brancusi
"When you see a fish you don't think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through the water... If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality. I want just the flash of its spirit."
Constantin Brancusi
"Create like a god; command like a king; work like a slave."
Constantin Brancusi

"What my work is aiming at is, above all, realism: I pursue the inner, hidden reality, the very essence of objects in their own intrinsic fundamental nature; this is my only deep preoccupation."

Constantin Brancusi Signature

Synopsis

Constantin Brancusi is often regarded as the most important sculptor of the 20th century. His visionary sculptures often exemplify ideal and archetypal representations of their subject matter. Bearing laconic titles such as Fish, Princess X, and Bird in Space, his sculptures are deceptively simple, with their reduced forms aiming to reveal hidden truths. Unlike the towering figure of Auguste Rodin, for whom Brancusi briefly assisted early in his career, Brancusi worked directly with his materials, pioneering the technique of direct carving, rather than working with intermediaries such as plaster or clay models.

Key Ideas

Explaining that "The artist should know how to dig out the being that is within matter," Brancusi sought to create sculptures that conveyed the true essence of his subjects, be they animals, people, or objects by concentrating on highly simplified forms free from ornamentation. While many regarded his art as abstract, the artist disagreed; he insisted on the representational nature of his works, asserting that they disclosed a fundamental, often concealed, reality.
Brancusi's work was largely fueled by myths, folklore, and "primitive" cultures. These traditional, old-world sources of inspiration formed a unique contrast to the often sleek appearance of his works, resulting in a distinctive blend of modernity and timelessness.
The materials Brancusi used - primarily marble, stone, bronze, wood, and metal - guided the specific forms he produced. He paid close attention to his mediums, meticulously polishing pieces for days to achieve a gleam that suggested infinite continuity into the surrounding space - "as though they proceeded out from the mass into some perfect and complete existence."

Biography

Constantin Brancusi Photo

Childhood

The second of four children, Brancusi was born in the small farming village of Hobitza, Romania, in 1876. He had a difficult childhood, in part due to challenging relationships with his father, a property manager of a monastery, and the children from his previous marriage. After several attempts to leave home, Brancusi finally did so permanently in 1887, at the age of eleven.

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Constantin Brancusi Biography Continues

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

More Constantin Brancusi Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Constantin Brancusi
Interactive chart with Constantin Brancusi's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp
Paul GauguinPaul Gauguin
Fernand LégerFernand Léger
Auguste RodinAuguste Rodin

Personal Contacts

Alfred StieglitzAlfred Stieglitz
Edward SteichenEdward Steichen
Henri RousseauHenri Rousseau

Movements

DadaDada
African ArtAfrican Art
Asian ArtAsian Art

Influences on Artist
Constantin Brancusi
Constantin Brancusi
Years Worked: 1907 - 1957
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Isamu NoguchiIsamu Noguchi
Richard SerraRichard Serra
Robert MorrisRobert Morris
Donald JuddDonald Judd

Personal Contacts

Ezra PoundEzra Pound
Amedeo ModiglianiAmedeo Modigliani

Movements

Art DecoArt Deco
MinimalismMinimalism

Useful Resources on Constantin Brancusi

Books

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Constantin Brancusi Recomended resource

By Friedrich Teja Bach, Margit Rowell, Ann Temkin

Constantin Brancusi (Modern Masters Series)

By Eric Shanes

works

Constantin Brancusi: The Essence of Things

By Carmen Gimenez, Matthew Gale

Constantin Brancusi, 1876-1957: A retrospective exhibition Recomended resource

By Constantin Brancusi

More Interesting Books about Constantin Brancusi
Funk and Chic

By Robert Hughes
Time
December 18, 1995

Where Brancusi's Independent Road Led

By Alan Riding
The New York Times
April 18, 1995

Carving a way to heaven

By Jonathan Jones
The Guardian
January 3, 2004

Cool Warmth, Buoyant Stone, Majestic Wood

By Roberta Smith
The New York Times
June 18, 2004

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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