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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Constantin Brancusi

I don't have many regrets in life; regrets are inevitably things which we make a choice to hold on to because of our guilt and so it's far easier just to let them go. However the Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, does represent one of my regrets. Since its his 135th birthday today, Google are using his work as their banner and he is trending on Twitter, I thought I would attempt some kind of reparation.

The Google banner today really is a work of art in itself, the digital sculptures really capture the sense of solid dimensionality.

In 2009 I spent my summer in Romania, the birthplace of Brancusi, where they cling on to his legacy with fierce pride. I was located in a town called Craiova in the region of Oltenia, a hot industrial town with the skeleton of a grand casino planned by Ceaucescu abandoned at its centre. I was not far from the Brancusi sculpture park in Targu Jiu, people continually suggested it as a day trip but I stubbornly believed that I did not like sculpture and never went.

Madame Pogany in the Craiova Museum

All I saw of Brancusi in Romania were two sculptures in the small, neglected museum of Art in Craiova. But I returned to England with an ingrained sense of his importance as well as a Romanian love of meat, gherkins and a gushing pride in Oltenia Terra Nova. Yes, i returned from Romania part Romanian (but that is another story). Since being back in England, and falling in love with sculpture, I have hunted Brancusi wherever I can find him.

The Kiss in Craiova Museum of Art

The Kiss is one of Brancusi's most famous sculptures, it recalls Rodin, whom Brancusi studied under for several months but demonstrates his strong individuality. There is a beautiful simplicity in this equal pair locked in an intense but also tenderly innocent embrace. We can find comparisons for Brancusi's work in contemporaries such as Modigliani or Gaudier-Brzeska but in the end the sculptures are distinctively his own.

Sleeping Muse, I think I may have seen versions of this in various places...I went to a Van Doesburg exhibition at the Tate Modern because it advertised work by Brancusi and then found only this solitary sculpture to satisfy me. That's not to say that it isn't beautiful. There is a purity of line in Brancusi, a peaceful stillness of the inanimate material made animate by the artist's thought.

"There are idiots who define my work as abstract; yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic. What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things."

"Am șlefuit materia pentru a afla linia continuă. Și când am constatat că n‑o pot afla, m‑am oprit; parcă cineva nevăzut mi‑a dat peste mâini."

"I ground matter to find the continuous line. And when I realized I could not find it, I stopped, as if an unseen someone had slapped my hands."

Brancusi moved to Paris and spent his life working there in the thriving art scene, but he did not forget his Romanian identity; with folktales and culture influencing his work, clothing and his home. As an honorary Romanian, I think that is what I admire most of all.


  1. I love those sculptures, must have been ahead of their time.

  2. I am going to claim an embarrassed ignorance to Brancusi's work. They are beautiful though, and I am excited to learn more! I agree his figures have similarities to Modigliani, though "The Kiss" has a stunning ancient quality to it. I thank you for being so "on trend" and sharing your story!

  3. I am proud to be romanian and to finding sometimes -like now- admirers of Brancusi. He had an original version of expression through sculpture, something pure and rare, which I belive started in his rural youth age. Thank you for posting and sharing your thoughts with the world. Ioan