Education: Bucharest National School of Fine Arts, Arts Ecole des Beaux-Arts
Constantin Brancusi was a Romanian artist, who was also a sculptor and photographer but primarily known for his modernist sculptures. In 1952, he became a French citizen. His work is characterized by balanced, geometrical lines and extreme simplification of form, displaying the evident influence of Romanian folk art as well as that of non-European cultures. He has exhibited his sculptures and photographs at several art galleries
Constantin Brancusi's Early Life
The artist was born in the Carpathian hamlet of Hobita in the winter of 1876, the son of Nicolae and Maria Brancusi, both of poor peasant stock, who earned an insufficient living through arduous physical labor. While still a child, he was required to herd sheep for the family and often took this opportunity to run away from home several times, desperate to escape harassment from his father and older half-brothers. In 1887, aged 11, he finally managed to leave the household for good in order to work for a grocer in the nearby settlement of Slatina.
The region in which Brancusi was raised was renowned for its rich tradition of folk art, especially woodcarving. It was a craft he showed exceptional talent in from an early age, whittling figurines and miniature musical instruments out of dead branches. After two years in Slatina, he left for Craiova in search of a job that would help subsidize art school. Upon arriving in the city, he found work as a waiter in a public house and maintained the position for a number of years while attending the Scoala de Meserii (school of arts and crafts) on a part-time basis from 1894 to 1898. In 1894, after seeing him fashion a hand-carved violin from waste material, a wealthy industrialist decided to fund the rest of his education, allowing him to become a full-time student and graduate with honors in 1898. Upon receiving his degree, he enrolled at the Scoala Natzionala de Arte Frumoase (Bucharest National School of Fine Arts) to study sculpture under Dimitrie Gerota.
Constantin Brancusi's Years in Paris
Brancusi went to Munich in 1903, and after a brief stint there, he moved to Paris
in 1905, famously traveling most of the way on foot. He arrived in the French capital to a society brimming with experimental new ideas and philosophies and began studying modeling and sculpture under Antonin Mercie at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. During this time, he developed a reputation as an exotic persona, actively adding to the mystique of his character by exclusively wearing traditional Romanian garb and making his own furniture by hand.
In 1907, Brancusi became an assistant to Auguste Rodin but left after a month, citing the difficulty he would face developing his skills under the shadow of a great master. However, his tenure at Rodin’s studio would directly influence the decision to practice direct carving instead of operating with a clay model, leading to the smooth, contoured style characteristic of his work. Over the next few years, he produced numerous versions of “The Kiss” and “Sleeping Muse,” simplifying the shape further and further until he discovered its core essence.
In 1913, five of Brancusi’s sculptures were selected for display at the Armory Show in New York, the controversial exhibition that brought together avant-garde artists from Europe and America. While critics were puzzled by his work, other artists – in particular, Marcel Duchamp – were intrigued. His peers and colleagues soon became his largest base of collectors. In 1914, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz organized Brancusi’s first solo show at the Photo-Secession Gallery in New York. At this show, the art collector John Quinn noticed Constantin Brancusi's work
and became his steady patron.
Constantin Brancusi's Later Years
Over the next decade, Brancusi’s work was mired in controversy – first at the Salon des Independants in 1920 when “Princess X” caused outrage for its phallic shape, followed by a legal battle with customs officials who refused to acknowledge “Bird in Space” as art. In 1928, a trial in the U.S. declared it was a work of art, not a manufactured “object,” thus excluding it from customs duties. In 1930, a commission to build a temple for the Maharaja of Indore in India fell through at the last minute. After he built “Endless Columns” as part of a three-piece public installation in Târgu-Jiu in Romania, Communist activists cited it as an example of Western corruption and demanded its removal.
The first major retrospective of Brancusi’s art took place at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in 1955, two years before his death.
Constantin Brancusi's Death and Legacy
Brancusi died in March 1957 in Paris and was buried in the cemetery at Montparnasse. He left his studio to the Museum of Modern Art in Paris under the condition that it be preserved as it is. It has been reconstructed for viewing purposes at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Brancusi was posthumously made a member of the Romanian Academy in 1990. You can buy Constantin Brancusi's artworks online
Constantin Brancusi's Major Exhibitions
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
Guggenheim Museum, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Centre Pompidou, Paris
Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka
Korller-Muller Museum, Otterlo
Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel
Tate Gallery, London