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The Story of a Genius―Constantin Brancusi

Famous for his original works of art due to his amazing wood-carving talent, Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) left an important and unique heritage behind, a free spirit of a genius confident in his own uniqueness, who considered that 'nothing can grow under big trees'.
ArtHearty Staff
"I do not aspire to be in fashion. For what is in fashion, goes out of fashion... If, on the contrary, your work is contested today, it doesn't matter. For when it is finally understood, it will be for eternity."―Constantin Brancusi
Constantin Brancusi (February 19, 1876-March 16, 1957) was an internationally known Romanian sculptor, born in Hobita, near Targu-Jiu. A combination of simple yet sophisticated, his work was a real inspiration for other sculptors that can be considered and thus called 'modern sculptors'. Brancusi had an inborn talent; ever since childhood he loved wood carving and succeeded in that as well. He was born in a peasants' home, and his parents, Nicolae and Maria Brancusi, were not among the rich people; on the contrary, they were poor.
Brancusi thus had to go to work at a young age; he was only nine when he looked for a job in the town. Four years later, he went to Craiova, where he worked at a grocery store for several years. When Constantin was eighteen, impressed by his talent for carving, his employer financed his education at the Craiova School of Crafts. Then he attended the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, where he received academic training in sculpture. In 1903, traveled to Munich, and from there to Paris. He entered the École des Beaux-Arts, and worked for two years in the workshop of Antonin Mercié. Auguste Rodin invited him to join his workshop once he finished his education.
His first works were influenced by the imposing work of Rodin, and he left after only two months, saying, "Nothing can grow under big trees." After leaving Rodin's workshop, he began developing the revolutionary style for which he is known. One of his famous and distinguished works is 'The Prayer', which actually represents a statue of a kneeling young girl; this was initially sculpted for a gravestone memorial. Rodin influenced Brancusi's work, but this influence ended in 1908 with the sculpture named 'Sleeping Muse', which portrays a woman's face. In the same year, his genuine talent came to be seen in his sculpture 'The Kiss', which marks the artist's genuine originality with no other influences. In 1913, Brancusi's work was displayed at both the Salon des Indépendants and the first exhibition in the U.S. of modern art, the Armory Show.
Five years later, he sculpted in wood the first version of the 'Endless Column', Brancusi's contribution to the Salon of 1920. 'Princess X', a portrait of an imaginary person that takes on a curiously phallic form, created a scandal. Despite his explanation, the police intervened and forced him to remove the work because it led to improper interpretation. Afterward, he started creating what was actually a group of sculptures named 'Bird in Space'; they represent the flight of a bird presented trough some simple shapes.
After an important exhibition, Brancusi was involved in a two-year court case with U.S. Customs Officials because 'Bird in Space' was so abstract that officials refused to believe it was sculpture.
He returned to Romania in 1937, and again in 1938 for the inauguration of three monumental works in a public garden in Tîrgu Jiu: new enormous steel versions of the 'Endless Column', 'Gate of the Kiss', and 'Table of Silence'.
As far as his character was concerned, Brancusi was a complex, puzzling at times, yet amiable and voluble person. He was short, jovial, and wore a beard and simple peasant clothes. His interests range comprised quite a large palette: science, music, cooking. He was indeed a talent in music, he was a singer, and what's more, he played his violin beautifully. He seems to have never forgotten traditional Romanian food, as he was loved for the great meals he prepared for his friends.
Pablo Picasso, Ezra Pound, Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Pierre Roché, Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Léger, and Henri Rousseau are some of the personalities who were included among his friends in Paris.
After a full life and an impressive load of work (1,200 photographs and 215 sculptures), he died at the age of 81 (March 16, 1957) leaving an admirable inheritance of value and inspiration. He was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. It is in this cemetery where he has some statues for memorial gravestones, carved for some of his contemporaneous artists. It is worth mentioning that his famous work 'The Kiss' is also to be found here, in this cemetery.
You can see his works in the National Museum of Art of Romania (Bucharest), as well as in other countries (USA).