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Last update:
2004, January 25

 

Constantin Brancusi

(Hobita, 1876 - Paris, 1957)

Constantin Brancusi, is a famous Romanian sculptor (1876 Hobita-Pestisani, Gorj, Romania - 1957 Paris, France), one of the first great creators in the modern art.
In 1894 he entered the Craftsmanships School in Craiova, to go then to the National Fine Arts School in Bucharest (1898-1902), where, for a short while, he studied with Professor Ion Georgescu and then with Vladimir C. Hegel. While a student, he sculpted the bust of Gheorghe Chitu, and a Head of expression and made several reproductions: the Ecorche (together with Dr. Gerota), Vitellius, Laocoon's head.

In 1902 he sculpted Georgescu-Gorjan's bust, and one year later he realised General Dr. Carol Davila's bust, which, in 1912, was to be located in the courtyard of the Bucharest Army's Hospital. In 1904, after going through Budapest, Vienna, Munich (to stay there for a while), and Switzerland, he would eventually arrive in Paris. In France, thanks to a grant received in 1905, he was able to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Antonin Mercie's class. In 1907 he was admitted for practicing at Rodin's studio. It would not be for long because, out of too much pride and self-confidence, he would leave Rodin's studio, to say of his master that he was a tree in the shadow of which no grass would grow. It was then that Brancusi carved Nicolae Darascu's portrait, Head of A Boy, Agony (1906), and the Prayer and Petre Stanescu's portrait, these latter being ordered as a tombstone at Buzau (1907).
From that time on he would be almost certain of what he was going to do. A delicate shaping, reacting to light, takes him away from the Impressionism -like effects (Rodin) to standing, in the context of just manifesting rationalistic trends such as Cubism, the trial of finding the essential, the non-perishable, the moment escapable elements. Creations such as Cumintenia pamantului/The Wisdom of the Earth, a first version of the Kiss (1907), Somnul/The Sleep (1908), Muza adormita/The Sleeping Muse (1909-1910), Pasarea maiastra (1910), Prometeu/Prometheus (1911), Domnisoara Pogany/Miss Pogany (the 1912-1933 series), Primul pas/The First Step (1913) point to his preferences for archaic art values, for the Black and Maori tribes' art. It was about this time that he made friends with Amedeo Modigliani. Painter Henri Rousseau, one of his friends, prophesied when telling to Brancusi: ... You made the ancient be modern". His fame spread and success waited for him in New York. He travelled to the USA in 1913 for participating in the International Exhibition of Modern Art (see the Armory Show). Thanks to Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, he would be able to open at "Photo Secession Gallery" his first personal exhibition.
He would join the group exhibitions organized by the "Artistic Youth", the "Romanian Art", "Contimporanul" etc. Young artists would visit his Paris studio and work there: Irina Codreanu, Milita Petrascu, Constantin Antonovici, Isamu Noguchi, George Teodorescu. Brancusi was in search for those basic principles of form that cleared it off the superfluous aspects. Organic forms got simplified as primary forms and life genesis were meant (Principesa/The Princess X, 1916; Primul strigat/The First Cry, 1917; Nou nascutul/The Newly Born, 1920; Domnisoara Pogany/Miss Pogany, Leda, 1920; Inceputul lumii/The Dawn of the World, 1924). The "Birds in the Sky " creations signify the soaring to the above, the chance of transcending terrestrial existence. The gravity law would be broken, as Brancusi dematerialized the volumes by polishing them once and again. Some other time, as with the Endless Columns of the years 1918-1928, the soaring effect is suggested by the vertical arrangement of geometrical modules.
In 1933 Brancusi produced, on commission of Maharajah Yeswart Rao Holkar Bahadur, a sketch for a Temple of Meditation, never to be built. As the National League of Women in Targu Jiu wanted to dedicate a monument to the country's heroes who died in the first World War, they would invite Brancusi in Romania to realise it. So did the triptych made up of Masa tacerii/Table of Silence, Poarta sarutului/Kiss Gate and Coloana fara sfarsit/Endless Column - Brancusi's masterpiece, appear. The triptych reveals, as others of his works do, the true dimensions of the folk art and of the entire Romanian cultural heritage, which he brought in the turmoil of modern art. In appropriating the deep heart of reality, the folk artist is guided by an explicit solar principle determining his need for order and rationality. Brancusi is one of the artists who highly and indubitably influenced the modern sculpture history by having a positive, constructive attitude, which his specific approach of the life events yielded. It was he who proposed- and the creators of the first half of the century realised it as being unique, and the uniqueness has never been doubted to our days- a decantation and a new pattern of spirituality and sensibility.
The simplicity of form and the fascination with geometry which makes that the space be imagined almost in a Cartesian way, join a permanent human endeavour, affectionately and deeply exercised. The ancient culture revealed him not only a wealth of morphologies- even though real they strictly limited to that puzzling image which some of his critics said about-but also a moral and philosophical content. Inspired by the folk art treasures, Brancusi endows his creation with magic powers. Transfigured with the adoration for his country land and his ancestors, Brancusi, this "Genius loci of Romania" as Giulio Carlo Argan named him, marvelled at the human being appearance, while discovering, in the immemorial flow of time, the milestones of a human life: birth, love, work, creation, death. He would like to reconstruct the enclosed, circular space of the great Dacian sanctuaries in the Orastie Mountains, which recorded the passing by of time and maintained the spiritual flame burning, wishing to make a place sacred and evoking, with times- past, present and future- turned one.
Impetuously upwards as it goes and simple as it looks, the Endless Column keeps secret of the constructor's sacrifice, to let the significance of man's Ascension, his search for light and reason be untouched and for ever.

From his works we present:

The Monumental ensemble from Targu Jiu was raised in the honour of the dead heroes from First World War. It express the cosmic feeling of Brancusi manifested by the reunion of the four fundamental elements of the world:

  • water - the start from the Jiu river;
  • earth - the alley from the public garden, "Masa tacerii" (Silence table) incorporated in the earth and the Heroes way;
  • fire - the flame which ensures the triumph upon the death in "Poarta Sarutului" (The kiss gate);
  • air - the spring of the "Coloana fara sfarsit" (Endless column) which goes through the air in its way toward the sky.

Mircea Eliade reveals us the deep sense of the last stop from the heroes procession. The "Coloana fara sfarsit" ensures the communication with the sky and so it will ease the rising of the heroes souls which have made the final sacrifice for the country defence.

The alley from the public garden starting from Jiu river

MASA TĂCERII


Creation years: 1937-1938
Material: Banpotoc rock
Size: 0,76 m height 2,15 m diameter and 12 stools in clepsydra form

POARTA SĂRUTULUI


Creation years: 1937-1938
Material: Banpotoc rock
Size: 5,27 * 6,58 * 1,84 m

COLOANA FĂRĂ SFÂRSIT


Creation year: 1937
Material: metalled crude iron
Size: 29,33 * 0,90 * 0,90 m

"Miss Pogany" is sculpture that begins a cycle which ends after 20 years. It represents a new conception of the portrait which is no more a mirror of a personality, but is an organic form, with an almost vegetal vitality, a becoming form which finds its fulfilment in the rhythm and vigour of geometrical expression.

MISS POGANY


Creation year: 1913
Material: gilded bronze
Size: 43.80 cm
Exposed at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Lillie P. Bliss donation.

More info about Brancusi and Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brancusi from Targu Jiu