Constantin Brancusi, a sculptor at work in his workshop

Constantin Brancusi, a sculptor at work in his workshop

Brancusi working on the Endless Column.

© ADAGP, Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: February 2008

Doctorate in Art History

Historical context

A work of memory in Romania

During the interwar years, to honor the memory and sacrifice of the 9 million who died in the Great War, memorials were erected on the territory of the participating nations. Based in the Montparnasse district, he worked in his studio on the design of three works intended for the Romanian city: The Table of Silence, The Kiss Door and The Endless Column. The Endless column materializes the memory of departed souls and access to a higher truth.

Image Analysis

Brancusi at work

This photograph taken in the early 1930s shows Constantin Brancusi at work in his Paris studio, in the process of making The Endless Column. Armed with a saw, the artist in overalls and shaggy hair bustles about in an environment cluttered with raw materials that appear like rubble. This posture contrasts with the representations of statuaries, such as they still found at the same time in the workshops of the School of Fine Arts. Brancusi breaks with the traditional technique of modeling. Preferring an artisanal work of the material, he favors the size of the marble and the work of the wood, as a cabinetmaker could do it. The Romanian sculptor did not work in front of the live model but reflected on the creation of autonomous and organic forms, flirting with abstraction. These kinds of shots are not uncommon as the artist has made extensive use of photography to show off his own work. His legacy to the French state also includes a very large number of photographs, nearly 1,700 negatives and prints, which attest to his taste for the practice of image.

Interpretation

The workshop: the den of creation

Brancusi's studio appears in this shot as the lair of his creation, the place where the artist sets up his creative process and gives shape to his idea. This vast and clear space seems inhabited by a vital energy necessary for the gestation of often monumental works. Brancusi was very attentive to the dialogue of forms in his workshop. He needed this place to be entirely dedicated to his art. This role of incubator reveals to us the profound symbolic dimension of the nature of the relationship between the artist and his place. The workshop appears as a metaphor for a uterine world, where the life of forms is in the making and prepared to be born into the open. This understanding of the workshop, which is the home of formal creation, is not far from the approach that the sculptor Etienne Martin will take in his Mansions a few decades later. Brancusi's workshop was reconstituted several times following the bequest made by the sculptor to the French State in the 1950s. The most recent, entrusted to the architect Renzo Piano, adjoins the Center Pompidou where it is open to the public since 1997.

  • artist workshops
  • War of 14-18

Bibliography

Notebook of the Brancusi workshop La Colonne sans finParis, Center Georges Pompidou, 1998. Anne-Françoise PENDERS Brancusi, photography or the workshop as a “mobile group” Brussels, La Lettre volée, 1994. Marelle TABARTL'atelier BrancusiParis, Center Georges Pompidou, 1998.

To cite this article

Claire MAINGON, "Constantin Brancusi, a sculptor at work in his studio"


Video: În vizită la Atelierul lui Constantin Brâncuși, Paris