Brancusi, Constantin (1876-1957), Romanian-born French sculptor, whose seminal work profoundly influenced modern concepts of form in sculpture, painting, and industrial design.
Born in Pestisani Gorj, on February 21, 1876, into a large family of peasant extraction, Brancusi studied art in Craiova and Bucharest before going to Paris in 1904, where he worked briefly for the noted sculptor Auguste Rodin. Brancusi's early works were influenced by Rodin and by the impressionists, but after 1908 he rapidly evolved his characteristic personal style. With the basic intention of laying bare the underlying nature of an image, he abandoned the use of live models and adapted a simplified, streamlined style. In describing the evolution of his art, he said: "One arrives at simplicity as one approaches the real meaning of things." Two simple organic shapes predominate in his work: the egg and the elongated cylinder. An example of the former is Sleeping Muse (1906, Museum of Art, Bucharest), in which the figure is represented simply as a stylized ovoid head. Bird in Space (1919, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, and in many other versions) is a long, graceful cylinder of polished metal, its lines reminiscent of the curve of a bird's wing. Here Brancusi refined the organic form to the point where it became almost totally abstract, a conceptual rather than an actual representation. The artist also worked in more geometric shapes.
By concentrating on pure form, Brancusi freed sculpture from its 19th-century pictorialism and prepared the way for 20th-century abstract sculptors. He died in Paris on March 16, 1957.