Constantin Brancusi, born in 1876, was a Romanian sculptor, painter, and photographer. He is most known for his sculpted works. Growing up in rural Romania, Brancusi worked as a herdsman from the age of 7. He learned how to carve wood at this time, and these traditional designs would influence his later work. At the age of 11 Brancusi left home permanently due to a strained relationship with his father.
While living in Craiova, Romania, an industrialist noticed Brancusi’s skill and enrolled him in the School of Arts and Crafts in 1894. In order to attend, Brancusi had to teach himself how to read and write. From 1898-1902, he continued his studies in modeling and life sculpture at Bucharest’s National School of Fine Arts. He later studied in Munich to explore European art.
The work and fame of French sculptor Auguste Rodin inspired Constantin Brancusi so much that he moved to Paris, traveling most of the way by foot. This fit with the legend of Brancusi, who always wore Romanian peasant clothing and carved his own furniture. From 1905-1907, he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He briefly worked as an assistant to Rodin in 1907, but left after only a month.
In 1908, Brancusi created his first original work, The Kiss. His simple figures, symmetrical lines, and practice of direct carving became his trademark and also influenced works of other artists such as Amadeo Modigliani. Around 1909, Brancusi began creating smoother, more contoured works out of bronze and marble. He recreated versions of works and experimentations in this style, combining his use of simple figures and symmetrical lines with the smooth and contoured marble and bronze works, further developing his individual artistic identity.
Non-European and primitivism artworks were inspirations to Brancusi, alongside his traditional Romanian folk art. Throughout his experimentations, Brancusi built up an international collecting audience. After the Armory Show in New York City in 1913, Brancusi found even more American collectors who faithfully purchased his works.
At the same time, critics spoke out against his radical sculptures, which were at times phallic and often unrecognisable as the subject they depicted. One of his works, Birds in Space, was so abstract that American customs officials refused to believe it was a sculpture. This led to a court case and multiple trips to the US, which Brancusi ultimately won.
In the 1930s, Brancusi worked with the Maharajah of India regarding building a temple; a project that was never realized. In the meantime, Constantin Brancusi continued showing his works. In 1939, he made his last trip to the US for the “Art in Our Time” exhibition at MoMA. In 1955, he received his first retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum.
Just before his death in 1957, Brancusi left his studio to Paris’s Museum of Modern Art in order for it to be preserved. Deeply involved in the Parisian art world, he was important beyond the avant garde, Modernist scene. Constantin Brancusi’s reduced forms and simple aesthetics,such as oval or elliptical shapes which evoke movement, inspired the Minimalist movement. He is considered one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th Century.