Often regarded as one of the most famous and influential sculptors of the 20th century, Romanian-French artist Constantin Brancusi has redefined standards in architecture and sculpture.
Born in a small Romanian village in 1876, the sculptor headed to Paris at the age of 30 to develop even more as an artist. He is known as the founder of modern abstract sculpture, with some of his works being sold for dozens of millions of dollars. However, many aspects of his personal life and career are still a mystery. Follow us on our journey of finding some of the most interesting things about the sculptor and his works.
The main sources of inspiration
According to the master himself, he offers a tribute to the traditional, authentic Romanian village in his early works. One of the main sources of ideas for his sculptures is represented by the early European civilization that lived in the Danubian Basin, close to where the sculptor was born and raised.
Apart from finding motifs in the virtues of the 19th-century traditional Romanian village, Brancusi credits another point of origin in his art that influenced his later works. According to him, art pieces like “Beginning of the World” and variations on the form credit the egg as an ancient spiritual symbol.
One of the oldest traditions in Romania that is still kept today is the painting and decoration of eggs around Easter to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, meaning that the sculptor’s deep roots in the Eastern Orthodox Church had a strong influence on his development as an artist.
The hidden meaning behind the sculptor’s masterpiece, “Column of the Infinite”
The “Endless Column” or “Column of the Infinite” remains the biggest and most powerful work of the artist, created to pay tribute to the Romanian soldiers that died in World War I. The work, alongside other famous ones, is located in Targu Jiu, a southern town in Romania, in a park that was named after him.
Although many art critics tried to decypher the impressive monument and the reasons behind the shape of it, one cannot truly get into this genius’s mind without learning more about the historical background of Romania.
There are various explanations offered for the symmetrical form chosen by Brancusi but the most plausible one refers to ancient motifs. In the Ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, the use of two triangles symbolized an hour-glass shape.
Brancusi’s work integrates these ancient symbols in a repeating sequence of triangles or hourglasses, depicting the infinite cycle of life. One part is meant to symbolize birth and maturity, while the other one refers to the second part of a person’s life, maturity, and death.
In the creation of the “Column of the Infinite”, the Romanian sculptor was inspired by the hourglass symbol
widely seen in artifacts recovered from various archaeological sites along the Danube and in other parts of the country.
However, trying to understand the work of the modern sculptor without knowing the geographical and historical context of his life is like buying a brass telescope from Optics & Lab
and expecting it to deliver the same quality and image clarity as a professional tool. In other words, you won’t know exactly what it serves or stands for except for the fact that it’s eye-catchy.
Training with the best
The sculptor received formal training at art schools in two Romanian cities - Craiova and Bucharest, but it wasn’t until 1904 when he moved to Paris that his true training begun. At the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the prestigious French academy of arts, the artist developed under the guidance of Auguste Rodin, the forefather of modern sculpture.
However, academic guidance didn’t inspire Brancusi to think outside the box, so he left the school soon after to create his own style, far from the rigors of realist confines. Shortly after, he established his studio in which he continued working until the end of his life.
A man of boundless vision and few subjects
Despite creating hundreds of works throughout his life and pushing the boundaries of architecture and sculpture, Brancusi never really strayed from the portrayal of people and animals.
The Hungarian artist Margit Pogany remains one of the sculptor’s preferred female subjects, creating various similar sculptures in different materials. Throughout his career, Brancusi forged five versions of the famous “Madame Pogany
” sculpture in plaster, marble, and bronze.