Romanian-born French sculptor and a pioneer of abstract sculpture.
Brancusi was born into a large and prosperous peasant family in a district with a tradition of woodworking. After studying art in Bucharest he went to Munich in 1902, from where he set out on foot for Paris, arriving in 1904. The first sculptures that he exhibited were naturalistic and sufficiently impressive for Rodin to offer him a place in his studio as a student carver. However, Brancusi had already moved away from depicting the external apparance of objects: his ambition was to capture the essence of forms by dispensing with surface details. His Sleeping Muse of 1909 is an early stage of this evolution towards pure form. This and many of his subjects in marble and polished bronze were repeated and refined several times in the quest for simplicity and perfection. The abstract Bird in Space, for example, was produced in fifteen versions between 1923 and 1940.
The second vital characteristic of Brancusi's art is the feeling for his materials that he inherited from his native culture. In contrast to the contemporary practice of employing craftsmen to do the carving, from 1910 Brancusi worked directly with the materials himself. In the stone carving The Kiss (first version 1910) the forms appropriate to the material are as important as the forms required by the subject. Brancusi's work, in contrast to the cerebral approach of most avant-garde sculptors at the time, has profoundly influenced much modern sculpture. The Kiss, like many of his carvings in stone and wood, also reflects his respect for archaic and primitive sculpture.
Brancusi became a naturalized French citizen in 1957, shortly before his death.