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At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși


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This Week | 10 Things We Love Lately: Atelier Brancusi, Timothée Chalamet in Art Jib Doors, Climbing Roses & more

The 19th of every February is marked by a very important anniversary for me: the birth of Romanian-born sculptor, painter and photographer Constantin Brâncuși (February 19, 1876 – March 16, 1957).

I can’t express enough my adoration and infinite love for him and his work and I feel there are not enough stories about him. I often go back to his atelier with the hope of discovering something else about him, about his universe. The sun shining through the glass rooftop of the atelier always sheds light on his work in such different ways. It’s the most inspiring place to go spend time and just dream.

So today, I have gathered a few stories about his youth and work, in order to get to know him a little better, Brâncuși, the most important Romanian artist whose work was not celebrated enough.

Brancusi, had an academic training, but he was a Paris peasant, a Romanian with a heritage of folklore and folk art. Peggy Guggenheim, who began buying his work in the 1940s and took artist-worship seriously, called him “half astute peasant and half real god.” —The New York Review of Books

“You can see Brancusi's violin in his reconstructed atelier in Paris. You can picture the bearded sculptor playing Romanian folk music in the evenings accompanied by his friend, the anarchic composer and cabaret pianist Erik Satie. The music and personality of Satie in his little round spectacles shaped the playful spirit of French dada, the only art movement to which Brancusi - loosely - belonged.” —The Guardian

He studied at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts and socialized among avant-garde art and intellectual circles, cultivating a reputation for great effort in the art studio and free-spirited revelry in his personal life. Brancusi worked briefly as an assistant to Auguste Rodin, but left after determining that in spite of his admiration, “Nothing can grow under big trees.” He went on to establish his own studio at the Impasse Ronsin. —CR Fashion Book

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși
At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

Brancusi moved to No. 8 Impasse Ronsin in 1916. It was there that he began to craft his pared-down forms out of stone, metal, and wood, then polish them until they gleamed. This fascination with materials was reflected in the boulders and blocks of stone he left scattered about his studio, which served as props for displaying work.

They gave the space the feel of a quarry—until the floor gave out under their weight, forcing Brancusi to relocate to No. 11 in 1927. That studio expanded slowly over the years, eventually growing to encompass four additional spaces where Brancusi both lived and worked.

George Oprescu, Romanian art critic and collector wrote about his visit to the Brancusi atelier at the time: "What made his studio unique were no longer the huge timber beams that used to be there. By that time, Brancusi’s main interest had shifted to stone and polished metal sculpture. Such works, placed on mobile platforms that electric mechanisms set in motion, kind of took me by surprise, in a rather unpleasant way. Then we had a meal, cooked by the artist himself, and we talked for at least two hours about what I saw. What was striking in Brancusi’s look, something that I couldn’t forget for years after I first saw him, was some sort of rustic loftiness, his strong, agile, although not very tall, body. I particularly remember the eyes, as they were extraordinary! They were quite meaningful, you could always tell what was going on in his heart and mind. You could read his heart by simply looking into his eyes. He was soft-spoken and very articulated. And on that night he had something of an artist who had deciphered the ultimate truth about art.” —Radio România Internaţional

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

Constantin Brancusi, Mlle Pogany, version I, 1913. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

Brancusi with Margit Pogány

In 1910 he met a Hungarian painter Ms. Margit Pogány in Paris. She was 31 and he was 34. Pogány sat in as a model: “I posed for him several times."

Each time he began and finished a new bust in clay,” she wrote. “Each of these was beautiful and a wonderful likeliness, and each time he only laughed and threw it back into the boxful of clay.” The finished sculpture, instead, was a curious sort of portrait: a large ovoid with disembodied arms and otherworldly, resting eyelids, just scarcely echoing the basic features of a woman’s head.

“A thing which would pretend to reproduce nature would only be a copy,” Brancusi said. “I am trying to get a spiritual effect.” He didn’t see the beauty of sculpture as lying in the recreation of the physical form, but rather in the revealing of something previously invisible. He believed there was more than one way to represent the truth in things.” —Artsy

They had a passionate romantic relationship and wrote many letters after Pogány returned to Budapest where she became a noted painter on her own. In one of her letters Pogány wrote: “All the time I think about you and the tenderness and how you took care of me. I would have liked to give you as much joy as you gave me.” —Hungarian Free Press

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

Nancy Cunard | via Vogue

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

Constantin Brancuși (1876–1957), La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard), conceived in 1928 and cast in 1932 | via Vogue

Another of his muses, Nancy Cunard, inspired him to create La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée.

“Cunard, a poet and publisher, an heiress and an activist, a muse and a journalist, was renowned for her wild elegance. Tall and whippet thin, her hair shorn in the La Garçonne style of the Jazz Age, she had, according to contemporaries, a face “like Nefertiti,” skin as “white as bleached almonds,” and large eyes as blue “as sapphires.”

She never posed for Brancusi, but her strange beauty clearly captured his imagination. “Everything about the way she behaved,” he once said, “showed how truly sophisticated she was for her day.” In 1932, he cast the stunning polished bronze sculpture La Jeune Fille Sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard). The estimate for this rare work was $70 million—but in fact, one could argue that this modernist masterpiece and the woman it portrays are ageless and priceless. —Vogue

At the Gallery: Atelier Brancusi at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Leslie Williamson
At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncușivia the TIG archives

“There is a purpose in everything. In order to achieve it, one must detach oneself from an awareness of self.” The importance of this humility lay in the fact that without it one cannot perceive things as they are in themselves; egotism tries to refashion things according its own distorted perceptions. “I am no longer of this world,” wrote the young Brancusi. “I am far from myself, I am no longer a part of my own person. I am within the essence of things themselves.” (Aiden Hart)

At the Gallery | Stories on the Artist: Constantin Brâncuși

Atelier Brancusi,
Place Georges-Pompidou,
75004 Paris, France
2.00 - 6.00 p.m. every day except Tuesdays and 1 May

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Daniela Chelariu, Travel Editor, Paris
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Dana is a fragile dreamer, they say, arriving in Paris four years ago, for love, and the city has been constantly changing her life since then. Hers is a world of books, (Marguerite Duras, Simone de Beauvoir, Anne Berest), expos, long walks sur les quais de Seine, pink skies, fine wine and peonies.

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