Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tomato, tomahto. . . how about Brancusi ? If you're like me you have been pronouncing it incorrectly for years - just learned it's pronounced Brancoosh- and it's Romanian, not Italian. He left Romania early in his life to study and work in France, but evidently he never really stopped creating art that had its touchstones back in Romania.

In Writers on Art, the British novelist Paul Bailey talks about how Brancusi "revivifies the images of rural Romania - the Byzantine icons, the wayside crosses and altars, the 'death poles.' (p. 257)
(About those death poles which I'd never heard of - apparently Ceausescu bulldozed quite a few village graveyards, destroying many - but they point toward the sky and signify the soul of the deceased on the way to heaven.)

Above is The Kiss. Maybe he got the idea for the theme from Rodin because he worked in his studio for two years at the beginning of his career. There are a number of versions of this. This particular one was carved in 1907 and adorns a grave. (Many of Brancusi's early commissions were funerary monuments.)

Bailey feels that given the sculptor's Orthodox background, he probably saw death as a part of life, and did not feel it needed to be sentimentalized or glossed over. The man and woman are carved out of rough stone, and certainly do appear to be united (even codependent). Reminds me of Cycladic sculpture in its simplicity. What do you think?

So many artists are lauded for their ability to simplify. But it is so hard to do well. Look how perfect this Sleeping Muse is. Just enough detail. Just the right size (6 x 11 x 7). Amazing.

1 comment:

  1. I remember seeing a show of Mogdiliani a few years ago in Madrid. It included some works by Brancusi, who, as you probably know, was a good friend of and an influence on the Italian artist during their time in Paris. Some of Brancusi's works, like the one in the second image, do call to mind Mogdiliani's female portraits. Mogdiliani actually stopped painting for years to devote himself to sculpture, which he only gave up for health reasons; apparently the dust of his sculptor's studio aggravated the chronic lung problems that would eventually contribute to his woefully early death.