BORN IN PESTISANI, ROMANIA, 1879
DIED IN PARIS, FRANCE, 1957
Constantin Brancusi first studied sculpture at the School of Arts and Crafts in Craiova (1894–1898) and the National School of Fine Arts in Bucharest (1898–1902). In 1904, Brancusi left Romania permanently, traveling through Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Zurich and Basel, before settling in Paris. There, he continued his training at the École des Beaux-Arts (1905–1907), during which he attracted the attention of French sculptor Auguste Rodin whom greatly influenced Brancusi’s novel approach to sculpture. In Paris, Brancusi inserted himself into a thriving community of artists and intellectuals that included Henri Rousseau, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Fernand Léger and Marcel Duchamp. Among these major figures of Modernism, Brancusi emerged as a distinctive force in his pioneering approach to sculpture that reinvigorated the definition of the art object and its conceptual potential beyond its tangible means. Accordingly, Brancusi’s cross-fertilization of traditional and novel ideas paved the way for future generations of artists, including figures like Isamu Noguchi and Henry Moore, among others, and foreshadowed quintessential theories at the core of Minimalism and Conceptual Art.
Brancusi made his debut in New York in 1913 at the Armory show, exhibiting five works that would propel modern sculpture to a new and radical trajectory. Over the following years, Brancusi’s reputation flourished in the United States, and especially in New York. "Without the Americans, I would not have been able to produce all this or even to have existed," Brancusi remarked to the New York Times while celebrating his first museum retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1955; the exhibition later traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Brancusi's second Guggenheim retrospective occurred in 1969, and was held in the museum’s Frank Lloyd Wright rotunda. Between 1934 until the end of his career, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, included works by Brancusi in more than ten exhibitions. In 1967, Brancusi’s work became the subject of his first retrospective at a French museum in Tribute to Brancusi at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, which then presented a full-scale survey of his work in 1995.
In his will, Brancusi bequeathed a collection of his work to the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, with the condition that his studio be rebuilt as it stood when he died. The extant reconstruction is presented as a museum space containing the studio, on view opposite the Centre Georges Pompidou. More recently, Brancusi’s work has been the subject of major institutional surveys, including presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2011); Tate Modern, London (2004); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2003). At the present, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, is showcasing its rich collection of works by Brancusi.