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Constantin Brancusi

Constantin Brancusi

*  1876 Hobita/Rumänien
† 1957 Paris

The sculptor and photographer Constantin Brancusi, a peasant's son, was born in Hobita, Romania in 1876. On leaving school, he was employed in a cabinet-maker's workshop before enrolling at the Bucharest Art Academy in 1898. Moving to Paris, in 1904, he soon became part of the art scene there and made a great many friends, including Amadeo Modigliani, Alexander Archipenko, Marcel Duchamp and Jean Cocteau. Brancusi first showed work at the Salon d'Automne in 1906. Although his early work was in the academy tradition, he developed a distinctive style of his own from 1907. Thematically he preferred classical antiquity and motifs drawn from the nature myths of his native land, further developing these into protracted series of works, some of which went on for decades. Invariably reducing the themes Brancusi started out with to abstract simplicity, he distilled them into what he saw as the essence of a motif, thus coming ever closer to the essential statement he wanted to make with them. "The Kiss", "Bird in Space", "Endless Column" are prime examples of this approach. This serial working process and strict limitation to stone, bronze and wood as his materials are salient features of his œuvre. Not long after his first one-man show in New York in 1914, Brancusi became acquainted with important American collectors. Man Ray taught him the essentials of photography in 1921. During the 1930s Brancusi was preoccupied with the links between architecture and sculpture. The upshot was a commission for a heroic monument at Tirgu Jiu, Romania, that was executed in 1938. Brancusi's reputation as a leading avant-garde sculptor is based on the fusion of architecture and sculpture he achieved there, which had a seminal influence on numerous artists and architects. During the last decade of his life, Brancusi was mainly involved in architectural projects on a grand scale, such as a plan to recreate his "Endless Column" as a skyscraper in Chicago. In 1952 the sculptor became a French citizen and in 1956 he bequeathed his studio to his adopted country. A year later Brancusi died and was buried in the Montparnasse cemetery.