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Romania’s Brâncusi in Paris and New York

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“Ce qui est réel n’est pas l’apparence mais l’idée, l’essence des choses.”—Constantin Brâncusi 

Today Google is celebrating the 135th birthday of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncusi (1876-1957) with a doodle that features seven of his sculptures.

Brancusi was born February 19, 1876 in Romania and died March 16, 1957 in Paris, my hometown.Brâncusi is considered one of the founding figures of modern sculpture and one of the most original artists of the twentieth-century. His groundbreaking carvings introduced abstraction and primitivism into sculpture for the first time, and were as important as Picasso’s paintings to the development of modern art.

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Brâncusi grew up in the village of Hobisa Romania, close to Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, an area rich in a tradition of folk crafts, particularly woodcarving. Geometric patterns of the region are can be seen in his later works.

His parents were poor peasants who earned a meager living through hard labor. As a boy Constantin herded the family’s flock of sheep. He showed talent for carving objects out of wood, and often ran away from home to escape the bullying of his father and older brothers.

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Brâncusi trained initially as a carpenter and stonemason. When Brâncusi was 18, an industrialist, impressed by Brâncusi’s talent for carving, entered him in the Craiova School of Arts and Crafts (Scoala de meserii), where he pursued his love for woodworking. He graduated with honors in 1898, then enrolled in the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, where he received academic training in sculpture. One of his earliest surviving works, under the guidance of his anatomy teacher, Dimitrie Gerota, is a masterfully rendered écorché (statue of a man with skin removed to reveal the muscles underneath) which was exhibited at the Romanian Athenaeum in 1903. Though just an anatomical study, it foreshadowed the sculptor’s later efforts to reveal essence rather than merely copy outward appearance.

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Eventually Brâncusi traveled to Munich and then settled in Paris in 1904, where the avant-garde community of intellectuals and artists openly welcomed him. He worked for two years in the workshop of Antonin Mercié of the École des Beaux-Arts, and was invited to enter the workshop of Auguste Rodin. Even though he admired the eminent Rodin he left the Rodin studio after only two months, saying, “Nothing can grow under big trees.”

Drawing inspiration from African and oriental art in addition to Rodin’s work, Brâncusi found his own unique voice in the simple form. Reminiscent of the clean poetic strokes of Canadian Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris, Brâncusi was a “purist” who sought to reduce his art to a few basic elements. His art was subtle yet complex, like a deep pool waiting to embrace you. Complexity lay coiled inside each polished piece, poised to reveal the poetry of its deepest intimacy. “Witness the studied serenity and distilled eroticism of Sleeping Muse,” proclaimed Nicola Hodge and Libby Anson in their book World’s Greatest and Most Popular Artists and Their Works. This 1910 bronze (pictured above) can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York—another one of my favorite places—and maybe one of yours.

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A reconstruction of Brâncusi’s studio in Paris is open to the public. The Brâncusi Atelier lies near the Pompidou Centre, in the rue Rambuteau. It’s worth a trip and while you’re at it, check out the Pompidou Centre.

Brâncusi’s sculptures are very fetching; what I mean is they fetch a great deal! In 2002, one of his sculptures named Danaide sold for $18.1 million. It was the highest that a sculpture piece had ever sold for at auction. In May 2005 one of his pieces from Bird in Space broke that record, selling for $27.5 million in a Christie’s auction. Then in February 2009 in the Yves Saint Laurent/Pierre Bergé sale his sculpture Madame L.R. sold for  €29.185 million ($37.2 million), setting a new historical record. Well, don’t look at me. I didn’t buy it…(but I know who did…meow)!

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I’m Toulouse LeTrek, the COOL Travel Cat! Meow…

“Munceste ca un sclav, porunceste ca un rege, creeazs ca un zeu.” (work like a slave, command like a king, create like a god)– Constantin Brâncusi 

 

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