JUST IN FRONT of the Centre Pompidou, in the Place Beaubourg, there lies a small building in which a fascinating permanent exhibition is held. This exhibition is of the works of Romanian-born sculptor, painter and photographer Constantin Brâncuși (February 19, 1876 – March 16, 1957). At the age of 18, Brâncuși created a violin by hand with only the materials he found around his workplace. Impressed by the young man’s talent for carving, an industrialist entered him in the Craiova School of Arts and Crafts, where he pursued his love for woodworking, graduating with honors in 1898. Brâncuși then enrolled in the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, where he received academic training in sculpture. In 1903, the artist traveled to Munich, and from there to Paris, where 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, leaving after only two months to pursue his own path.
Brancusi would make his career in France, living and worked in Paris from 1904 until his death in 1957, and it is here that he produced most of his work. With his abstracted, non-literal representation of things, Brancusi is considered a pioneer of modernism, and one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th-century. The artist’s circle of friends included artists and intellectuals in Paris such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Ezra Pound, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Henri Rousseau and Peggy Guggenheim.
Brancusi organised his life in his studio, so that there was no time or space between life and work, keeping his saws and chisels next to his bed. When he was working there, he said, there were days when “I would not have given up 15 minutes of my time for anything under heaven”.
He curated his studio, putting everything in harmony by balancing a neutral palette with some darker colours, the marble artworks with the wood and metallic ones, spending much time rearranging the sculptures and even photographing them. In later years, the artist often refused to sell his work, so as not to disturb the unity he had created in his studio. When he did sell a piece, he would replace it with a plaster cast.
Upon his death in 1957, in his will, the sculptor left his studio and its contents to the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris on condition that his workshop be rebuilt as it was on the day he died.
An exact reconstruction of Brancusi’s studio was created by the architect Renzo Piano between 1992 – 1996 on the piazza opposite the Centre Pompidou to house the collection, which consists of 137 sculptures, 87 bases, 41 drawings, two paintings and over 1600 glass photographic plates and original prints. The reconstruction of the space and display of the artist’s tools make it feel as though Brancusi has only just stepped out for a moment, returning any minute to continue his work. Many find the exhibit rather moving and definitely worth a visit the next time you’re in Paris.
Sleeping Muse II (1923), whose first version attracted the most attention in 1913, resulted in his first requests from collectors for bronze editions. It features also an abstracted face of a woman, like Mademoiselle Pogany II’s serpentine figure beckons the viewer with her subdued look. Sleeping Muse II transforms the viewer into a voyeur watching over the sleeping woman with delicate suggestions of a nose, large oval-shaped closed eyes, and a half-open mouth. (yatzer)
From the 1920s to the 1940s Constantin Brancusi was preoccupied by the theme of a bird in flight. He concentrated not on the physical attributes of the bird but on its movement. In “Bird in Space” wings and feathers are eliminated, the swell of the body is elongated, and the head and beak are reduced to a slanted oval plane. Balanced on a slender conical footing, the figure’s upward thrust is unfettered. Brancusi’s inspired abstraction realizes his stated intent to capture “the essence of flight.” This particular conception of “Bird in Space” is the first in a series of seven sculptures carved from marble and nine cast in bronze, all of which were painstakingly smoothed and polished.
“Bird in Space” has broken the world auction record for a sculpture in 2005 by fetching $27,456,000 at Christie’s New York to an anonymous buyer. (Daily Icon)
Left: Bird in Space by Brancusi; Right: Valentino Haute Couture, 2014, New York
Valentino Haute Couture, 2014, New York
In 2016, the couture house Valentino presented the collection Sala Bianca 945, which was a tribute to Valentino Garavani’s iconic 1968 white collection. It was also a tribute to Constantin Brâncuși, whose sculptures inspired the accessories in the collection.
Constantin Brancusi, Sleeping Muse, 1910, Bronze, National Museum of Modern Art – Georges Pompidou Center, Paris