Born in Pestisani, Romania, in 1876, Constantin Brancusi rose to prominence as a founding member of the Modernist school. Although his geometric representations may suggest abstraction, Brancusi saw them as representing the truth of the sculpted object--the essence of each thing. “What my work is aiming at is, above all, realism.” Brancusi rose to great popularity in France and the United States, and is now considered one of the foremost sculptors of the 20th century.
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Endless Column is a war monument honoring Romanian soldiers who died defending Targu Jiu, a mining town, during World War I. Standing just under 100 feet in height, it was restored in the late 1990s, having suffered some damage in World War II. The sculpture is set of rhomboids stacked upward, supported by an internal steel spine.
BIRD IN SPACE
Probably the best-known work of Brancusi, Bird in Space isn’t actually a single work, but rather a series of 16 sculptures, nine bronze and seven in marble. The bronzes are each different; Brancusi first made a plaster cast of one of the marble versions, then changed the proportions to create a unique new shape before casting the bronze. Resembling a long, thin oval tapering to a point, the intent was to capture the motion of the bird rather than the static image. However, the abstract nature of the work was apparently lost at first on US Customs agents, who imposed a tariff on the work as a manufactured metal object. Eventually, in November 1928, a Customs Court found that the work was indeed art and therefore not subject to tariff--the first time non-representational sculpture attained legal status as art.
Modeled after Baroness Renee Irana Franchon, Sleeping Muse is a disembodied, ovoid head lying on its side as if sleeping. It was originally carved in marble, and later several more were cast in bronze by Brancusi. The sculpted work has lightly carved markings creating the hair, eyes, and mouth of the face.
Don’t confuse Brancusi’s version of The Kiss with those of Gustav Klimt (a painting), Edvard Munch (also a painting), and Auguste Rodin (a marble sculpture). Brancusi’s sculpture is carved from stone, which he later made plaster casts from, and depicts a pair of lovers with arms wrapped about each other. Each of his six casts became increasingly abstract and geometrical.
Easily the most controversial of Brancusi’s works, the small, polished bronze sculpture Princess X was removed from display at the Salon des Independants in 1920 after complaints that it was too phallic. Brancusi denied the allegation vehemently, and claimed that the sculpture was an abstract rendering of Princess Marie Bonaparte, who he said was well known as a vain woman, looking over as if gazing in the mirror.
Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:
* Want to know more about Brancusi’s two big art scandals? Learn more from Art in Society in this interesting article.
* Interested in how bronze casting is done? The British Museum has you covered with this short video:
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