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The Guggenheim: The essence of Constantin Brancusi works

publicat in: Uncategorized // Publicata pe 26.10.2018


Photo source: Guggenheim


“Work like a slave; command like a king; create like a God.”


Constantin Brancusi – the sculptor of Romanian soul – a name that has completely transformed modern art and the approach on abstract sculpture. He rejected classical shapes used by everyone and by abstract, he revealed the essence of things, the idea behind the human being, by going beyond specific shapes. The sharp forms of his works offer unique insights into hidden truths. An artist who refuses to transmit with his works the exact form of reality without shape or background and preferrs a much more inner road. From Hobita to Paris, Brancusi creates exclusively in his Parisian workshop with his favorite materials – marble, wood, bronze – which he prefers to carve instead of pre-shaping them in clay or plaster. Reviewing his works, you will notice that all his life he tried to capture the simplest forms, giving up the small unnecessary decorative duplicities. His simple forms were not the purpose or the art, but by simple forms you get to the true meaning of things. In Brancusi's hands, the natural stone caught the most beautiful forms expressing the inner truth associated with folk motifs which he had also learned from Hobita, in his first years of life.


 "Matter must continue its natural life when it is altered by sculptor's hands"


Between 17 March 2017 and 3 January 2018, the Guggenheim Museum in New York exhibited Constantin Brancusi’s works, already part of its collections, yet not open to public until that time. The exhibition included 8 sculptures, made from marble and wood:


1. The Sorceress / Vrajitoarea, 1916-1924


Brancusi carved The Sorceress from a forked trunk of maple. This work has nothing evil in it. Geist considered Michelet's book The Sorceress written in 1862 as starting point for Brancusi's sculpture, if we take into account that Brancusi had this book into his library. Describing the main character in this book, Michelet says: A bulge is the cruel sign of possession, it is the sign of the suplicium and the ego, she walks with the womb in sight, the Strasbourg conceited that lays her head back.


Photo source: Guggenheim


2. King of Kings / Regele regilor – 1938


The monumental oak sculpture The King of Kings was originally planned to decorate the interior of a Meditation Temple in India, but it was no longer accomplished. The King of Kings can be considered Brancusi’s attempt to symbolize the power of Eastern religion in sculpture. The original name was the Spirit of the Buddha, since Brancusi was already familiar to Buddhism due to works of Tibetan philosopher Milarepa.


Photo source: Guggenheim


3. Muse / Muza, 1912


The marble bust carved by Brancusi in 1912 is a model of the Baroness Renée-Irana Frachon and was a milestone work and the the beginning of acknowledgement for the Romanian sculptor, a work that made him famous over the ocean. At that time Brancusi had simplified the girl's features to include the serenity of sleep. Later, he returned with "Sleeping Muse" – initially, from marble. Processed arches, prolonged nose and more carefully crafted finishes to further refine the style. The ovoid shape, the expression of perfection, would be found in many of its subsequent works.


Photo source: Guggenheim


4. Adam and Eve / Adam si Eva, 1921


Adam, the self-standing sculpture now becomes pedestal for Eve. Oak carved Adam turns into pedestal for his woman, sculpted in chestnut wood. The wood he wears on the crown. Adam now has an allegorical meaning: the man supports his wife. The sculptor refers to a faith originated in his village from Oltenia: man ought to be a support for his woman. Eva is an overlapping of spheres and spherical sectors who discharges a near-passion sensuality. Adam is represented by a diamonds with zigzag sides.


Photo source: Guggenheim


5. The Miracle / Miracolul (Foca [I]), 1930-1932


The sculpture, also called The Miracle, is made from marble with grey veins. It is a simple form, a body rising with effort from the ground. Constantin Brancusi reviewed frequently topics and shapes throughout his life as a sculptor, producing variations of his previous works with outlines subtle reimagined. The simplified form suggests not only the name of the creature, but also the fluid mean of locomotion. By balancing the sculpture with its limestone base, he conveys a much more underlined force. In the case of the Miracle, the penetrating form alludes to emotional revival, inspired by knowledge from an artist that experiences the catharsis effect during swimming.


Photo source: Guggenheim


6. Flying Turtle / Testoasa zburatoare, 1940-1945


His latest work – 1943, which marks the path from levitation and flight. The Soul of Flying Turtle symbolizes the soul of an old Brancusi and the entire living world that will be freed by death by the ephemeral body and will merge with the Divine and live forever. That's what happened to Brancusi, by way of his accomplishments. By grinding the white and pure marble, it seems that his work is merging with divine light and by the appearance it seems that this creature rises to the sky. What space does she float? The Turtle is overturned awaiting its death. So, does she flies through the air of death?


Photo source: Guggenheim


7. Watchdog / Caine de paza, 1916


By the mid 1910, Brancusi began to create sculptures made of rescued oak beams, procured from demolition workers in Paris. After being denied the handicradft during his academic preparation, the artist was inspired to revise them through this new encounter with an old material – wood.


Photo source: Guggenheim


8. Oak Base / Soclu de stejar, 1920.


For Brancusi's sculptures, wood was a form and an expression of expressionism. While his sculptures made of natural stone and metal represented archetypal shapes, his individual wooden works suggest specific characters or spiritual entities.


Photo source: Guggenheim


The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum started to collect Brancusi’s works mainly in the mid-1950, under the leadership of his second director, James Johnson Sweeney. By the time Sweeney began his mandate, the collection focused on "non-objective" painting. Sweeney significantly expanded the museum's acquisition policy into other genres and techniques, particularly the sculpture. At the same Time, the project is enlisted in the strategy of the Romanian Cultural Institute – New York, for 2017, 141 years from his birth and commemorating 60 years passed since Brancusi’s death. The Romanian Cultural Institute is a public institution of Romania with legal personality, aand mission to preserve and highlight Romanian culture outside country’s border, while ensuring visibility and prestige.


"Working with stone, you get to discover its spirit – hidden within the matter, the measure of its own being. Because sculptor's hands always think and follow the thoughts of the material."


"During the first decades of the 20th century, Brancusi created a corp of innovative works that allowed hime to modify the trajectory of modern sculpture. During this period, Brancusi lived and worked in Paris, at that time an effervescent artistic centre, a real world-capital of art, the origin of many trends and modernist perceptions. Brancusi became an integral part of these debates, both through his connection with other artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Amedeo Modigliani or Henri Rousseau, as well as his own pioneering work. The aspiration to express the essence of his subjects through simplified forms and his preference for artistic traditions, different from those of Western Europe, led him to new stylistic approaches. Moreover, this was about his personal way to present his works, underlining both on the sculpted work, but also on the pedestal, as well as on the interconnection between the works, directly connected to one another, instead of being imagined as independent entities and unveiling fresh ways of perception and understanding for the nature of the art object."


"All my life I have sought the essence of flight! Flight – what bliss!"


And on March 16, 1957, Constantin Brancusi finds the essence of flight through the air of death. And yet, he passed with a burdening pain: the impossibility of dying in his native country, and not being able to feel the air of the soil from his infancy and the origin of most of his beliefs. So, Brancusi is not ours, nor theirs, it's of the whole world. Of the sky, the flight, the birds, the truth and the divine.

The Guggenheim: The essence of Constantin Brancusi works
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