Poet Ezra Pound spoke of artist Constantin Brancusi’s work as providing “the master keys to the world of form.” Over a career that spanned half a century, Brancusi’s innovations transformed sculpture as it had been known, and influenced generations of artists to come.
After moving to Paris in 1904 from his native Romania, Brancusi affected the appearance of a Romanian peasant—a long beard, work shirt, and sandals—while embedding himself in avant-garde art circles. He soon began pushing modernist sculpture to the threshold of abstraction, developing a new, simplified vocabulary of graceful crescents, gleaming ovoids, and rough-hewn blocks that often evoked rather than resembled the things named in their titles, such as Bird in Space or Fish. He put the natural properties of his materials on display, carving directly into wood and stone and polishing metal to high reflectivity. The bases for his sculptures were often built of stacked elements—wood cubes, cylindrical slices, pyramidal blocks, or cruciform stones—becoming an integral component of the work itself and hinting at the possibility of infinite rearrangement, an idea that would prove fertile in future decades.
Drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection, this concise presentation of Brancusi’s career features 11 of the artist’s sculptures, a selection of drawings and photographs, and a rich collection of archival material chronicling the artist’s production and his relationships with his sitters, patrons, and The Museum of Modern Art.
Organized by Paulina Pobocha, Associate Curator, with Mia Matthias, Curatorial Fellow, Department of Painting and Sculpture.
Above: Constantin Brancusi. Fish. 1930. Blue-gray marble, 21 x 71 x 5 1/2″ (53.3 x 180.3 x 14 cm), on three-part pedestal of one marble 5 1/8″ (13 cm) high, and two limestone cylinders 13″ (33 cm) high and 11″ (27.9 cm) high x 32 1/8″ (81.5 cm) diameter at widest point. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange). © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris-