7 Quotes by Constantin Brancusi on His 141st Birthday

The legendary artist was born in the small village of Hobitza, Romania, on this day in 1876.

Constantin Brancusi’s name conjures the image of a traveling hermit, an old soul arrived from Eastern Europe, carrying with him the essence of modernity. Certainly his face evokes an otherworldly wisdom, and, indeed, this was apparently the look he was going for all along.

Brancusi was born in the small village of Hobitza, Romania, the second son of a monastery property manager with whom he struggled his entire childhood until leaving his paternal home at the age of eleven. The young Brancusi attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Craiova first, while working in such peculiar trades as cabinetmaking and fortune telling. He later studied modeling and life sculpture at the National School of Fine Arts in Bucharest, before undertaking a journey to Paris, traveling by foot trough Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Zurich, and Basel.

This trip would later make a legend of Brancusi, who embraced the myth created around him by wearing Romanian peasant clothing and carving all of his own furniture.

In the French capital he trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts as an assistant to August Rodin. He soon left the master, though, to pursue his own interests, producing works that would change the face of modern sculpture. Brancusi’s method evolved into a more reductive style, defined by his use of direct carving and suggesting a sincere relationship with the materials he used. His work was influenced by primitive cultures and modeled on new ideas, choosing to use primarily stone, bronze, and wood. Brancusi’s oeuvre was also characterized by the production of multiple versions of the same theme or piece, integrating their bases as part of the work itself.

The sculptor got fervent support within the artistic and intellectual community in Paris. He became close friends with Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, and Marcel Duchamp, among others. He achieved commercial success stateside, after debuting his work in the Armory Show in 1913, followed by a solo show in Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession Gallery.

Today, we celebrate Constantin Brancusi’s 141st birthday with 7 of his most gripping quotes. It’s the least we could do for the brilliant peasant-artist, who did nothing less than walk from Romania to Paris and lay the groundwork for a new path in sculpture.

1. On simplicity
“Simplicity is not an end in art, but we usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things.”

2. On the materials of sculpture
“Matter must continue its natural life when modified by the hand of the sculptor.”

3. On work
“Create like a god; command like a king; work like a slave.”

4. On life
“When we are no longer children we are already dead”

5. On architecture
“Architecture is inhabited sculpture.”

6. On form and essence
“What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things”

7. On working as Rodin’s studio assistant
“Nothing grows under the shadow of big trees.”

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