Constantin Brâncuşi February 19, 1876 – March 16, 1957) was an internationally renowned Romanian sculptor whose works, which blend simplicity and sophistication, led the way for numerous modernist sculptors.
Brâncuşi grew up in the village of Hobiţa Romania, Gorj, near Târgu Jiu, near Romania’s Carpathian Mountains, an area known for its rich tradition of folk crafts, particularly woodcarving. Geometric patterns of the region are seen in his later works.
Parents Nicolae and Maria Brâncuşi, were poor peasants who earned a meager living through back-breaking labor, and from the age of seven he herded the family’s flock of sheep. He showed remarkable talent for carving objects out of wood. Strong-willed and determined, he often ran away from home to escape the bullying of his father and older brothers.
At the age of nine, Brâncuşi left the village to work in the nearest large town. At 13 he went to Craiova, where he worked at a grocery store for several years. When he was 18, impressed by Brâncuşi’s talent for carving, his employer financed his education at the School of Crafts(Scoala de meserii) in Craiova, where he pursued his love for woodworking, graduating with honors in 1898.
He then enrolled in the Bucharest School of Fine Arts, where he received academic training in sculpture. He worked hard, and quickly distinguished himself as talented. One of his earliest surviving works, under the guidance of his anatomy teacher, Dimitrie Gerota, is a masterfully rendered écorché (statue of a man with skin removed to reveal the muscles underneath) which was exhibited at the Romanian Athenaeum in 1903. Though just an anatomical study, it foreshadowed the sculptor’s later efforts to reveal essence rather than merely copy outward appearance.
He died on March 16, 1957 at the age of 81 leaving 1200 photographs and 215 sculptures. He was buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. Also located in that cemetery are statues carved by Brâncuşi for several fellow artists who died; the best-known of these is “Le Baiser” (“The Kiss”).
His works are housed in the Museum of Modern Art (New York) the National Museum of Art of Romania (Bucharest), and the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), as well as in other major museums around the world. The Philadelphia Museum of Art currently has the largest collection of Brâncuşi sculptures in the United States.
A reconstruction of Brâncuşi’s onetime studio in Paris is open to the public. It is close to the Pompidou Centre, in the rue Rambuteau. After being refused by the Romanian Communist government, he bequeathed part of his collection to the French state on condition that his workshop be rebuilt as it was on the day he died.
Brâncuşi was elected posthumously to the Romanian Academy in 1990
In 2002, a sculpture by Brâncuşi named “Danaide” was sold for $18.1 million, the highest that a sculpture piece had ever sold for at auction. In May 2005, a piece from the “Bird in Space” series broke that record, selling for $27.5 million in a Christie’s auction. In the Yves Saint Laurent/Pierre Bergé sale on February 23, 2009, another sculpture of Brâncusi, “Madame L.R”, was sold for € 29.185 million ($ 37.2 million), setting a new historical record.[citat