Constantin Brancusi, or Brancusi (1876 – 1957)
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Constantin Brancusi was a Romanian artist, now known across the globe for his modernist sculptures. Though Brancusi reached a high-level of fame and recognition, he had a humble beginning in the village of Hobita, Romania near the Carpathian Mountains. His parents were both laborers who lived in poverty and sent young Brancusi to work herding their flock of sheep. In the village, Brancusi was exposed to the local tradition of woodworking, and showed great skill and craftsmanship.
By the age of nine Brancusi fled his village to seek work in larger towns, eventually settling in Craiova. After several years of working odd jobs, one of Brancusi’s employers noticed his skillful carvings and offered to fund courses at the local art school, Craiova Scoala de Meserii. Brancusi accepted the offer and earned an art degree in 1898.
Brancusi’s enthusiasm for the arts led him to continue his studies at the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, where he delved more deeply in sculptural studies. Brancusi’s work was well-reviewed by art communities and Europe, and in 1903, Brancusi was invited to work in the workshop of Antonin Mercié and Rodin in Paris.
After several years of work, study and apprenticeships, Brancusi began to develop his own trademark style. Brancusi worked in a variety of media ranging from wood, marble, clay and metal. Eventually most of Brancusi’s work consisted of carvings. By 1913 Brancusi began to enjoy considerable popularity in Romania, France and the United States. Brancusi exhibited in Paris salons as well as in New York modern art shows.
Brancusi created a great deal of controversy in 1920 after exhibiting “Princess X”, a bronze phallus, symbolizing Princess Marie Bonaparte’s sexual activity and desires. The piece was also a commentary on society’s conservatism towards masturbation and sexual freedom. As Brancusi’s career progressed he was commissioned to do several public works, including a World War I memorial in Tirgu-Jiu as well as Romanian monuments to honor those lost during the German invasion.
Brancusi is remembered for dressing as a Romanian peasant, and honoring his guests with traditional Romanian meals. Despite his nostalgia for Romanian culture, Brancusi resided in Paris for much of his life and became a French citizen in 1952, towards the end of his life. In France, Brancusi decided to leave his studio to the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, contingent upon the agreement that it would be left intact. At the time of Brancusi’s death he had a portfolio of over two hundred sculptures and over one thousand photographs. Brancusi’s work is now in major art collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Museum of Art of Romania in Bucharest. Brancusi’s studio is now on display near the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Do you think you own a piece by Brancusi? Contact us. We are the experts on Constantin Brancusi.