Brancusi, Constantin

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Constantin Brancusi was one of the great sculptors of the 1900's. His life was outstanding in its simplicity and devotion to art. For many years he lived alone in his studio in Paris, surrounded by his work.

Brancusi was born in a village in western Romania on February 19, 1876, the son of land-owning peasants. When he was 11 years old, he left his home to seek his fortune. He worked at odd jobs for five years and then went to Craiova.

In 1895 he entered the Craiova School of Arts and Crafts and studied sculpture for the first time. From then on, his education was paid for by scholarships and grants. He graduated from the Bucharest School of Fine Arts in 1902 and in 1905 enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris. His work quickly gained respect.

Brancusi's first sculptures showed the influence of the French sculptor Rodin. Brancusi worked in Rodin's studio in 1906 but left after a short time, stating, "Nothing can grow in the shade of a great tree." His work became personal and inventive. In much of his sculpture, natural shapes are reduced to simpler forms.

He sometimes produced multiple versions of a theme--a smooth, simple egg or a bird with elegant lines--seeking to express its purest form. Bird in Space was one such example. Brancusi created several variations of this sculpture, in marble and bronze, over a number of years.

From 1908, Brancusi's work was almost entirely of wood or stone--carved often in large, simple shapes--and of bronze cast from the carvings and frequently polished to a mirror finish.

Brancusi died on March 16, 1957. His studio in Paris, as he left it, serves as a museum of his work.

Reviewed by Mark Rosenthal
Philadelphia Museum of Art

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