Visiting the sculptures of Brâncuși in Târgu Jiu, Romania
Who was Constatin Brâncuși?
Constatin Brâncuși is one of the most influential modern sculptors of the 20th century. He was born in 1876 in Hobița, a village near Târgu Jiu, Romania. He lived and worked most of his life in Paris, but a part of his legacy is preserved in Târgu Jiu, Romania. A pioneer of Modernism, he became one of the most acclaimed sculptors of the 20th century.
Let me tell you something: if he was living in 2018, he would have been killing it on social media. Brâncuși in 2018 is that cool, hippy artist with dark and dreamy, minimalist pictures. He probably would have been featured on Boredpanda with this headline: “Romanian artist combines folk art with minimalism to create unique sculptures and the results are gorgeous”.
His work was mostly influenced by folklore, myths and “primitive” cultures. Brâncuși chose to make his sculptures by hand (unlike his other contemporary artists)- this raw physicality in merged with the abstract forms of his works established his personal artistic vision.
He also liked working on the surfaces on his sculptures: polishing them until he achieved the desired shiny look. He was mocked for this technique (especially his sculpture Portrait of Mademoiselle Pogany): critics said it looked like a shiny egg.
“When you see a fish you don’t think of its scales, do you? You think of its speed, its floating, flashing body seen through the water… If I made fins and eyes and scales, I would arrest its movement, give a pattern or shape of reality. I want just the flash of its spirit.”
One of his most controversial art pieces, Princess X, caused a scandal in the Salon des Indépendants in Paris. The work resembled a phallus, and the critics and public were shocked. (I am so glad I live in the 21st century!). Brâncuși insisted it represented the female body: an abstracted version of a woman’s head, neck and bust with her head tilting down.
Other famous sculptures of Constantin Brâncuși include: Sleeping Muse, The Kiss, Fish, Bird in Space, The Sorceress, Torso of a Young Man.
Fun facts about Brâncuși
- The youngest of the six children from the family, he became a shepherd at the age of seven
- This is the time when he first experiments with wood carving
- At the age of 9 (or 11 according to some sources) he ran away from home and had various jobs
- He is enrolled at the School of Arts and Crafts in Craiova, after being remarked for carving a violin
- He taught himself to read and write
- In 1903 he went to Paris…on foot.
- He finished the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris (trained in sculptor and modeling), working all sorts of jobs in the meantime
- He worked as studio assistant to Auguste Rodin, but left after a month, saying: “Nothing grows under the shadow of big trees.”
- He quickly became accepted as a member of the Paris avantgarde
- He had several expositions in Paris, Bucharest, USA
- One of his biggest muses was Margit Pogány, a Hungarian actress: he made several sculptures of her (Mademoiselle Pogany)
- One of his lovers was Peggy Guggenheim
- It is said that he has a son with Vera Moore, whom he never acknowledged (John Constantin Brâncuși Moore)
Congratulations for reading the biography of the artist! Sorry for tricking you with the fun facts part 😀
Brâncuși’s sculptures in Târgu Jiu, Romania
The artist has four sculptures exhibited in Târgu Jiu, Romania. The sculptures form an ensemble dedicated to the Romanian soldiers who died in the First World War. The ensemble was finished in 1938 and it is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century outdoor sculpture. It includes 4 major sculptures: Table of Silence, Alley of chairs, Gate of the Kiss and the Endless Column.
“Simplicity is not an end in art, but we usually arrive at simplicity as we approach the true sense of things.”
In the 1950’s the communist regime in Romania wanted to demolish the sculptures (because it was considered degenerate art), but thankfully they never did it. They attempted to pull the Endless Column down, failed at it, but left it tilted and cracked. They fixed it within a specialized restoration project in 1996 after years of neglecting it. (This hurt writing down.)
The ensemble is placed on an 1.5 km east-west axis that runs through the heart of the city. You can visit all the four works by walking in the same direction.
Table of silence (Masa tăcerii)
This piece is made of limestone and features a round table surrounded by 12 hourglass shaped stools. The sculpture represents the table where soldiers sat down before a battle. The presence of Time is expressed with the 12 hourglass shaped chairs situated in a perfect circle around the table. It is said that the Table of Silence also represents the Last Supper: the twelve chairs are the disciples, Jesus being the table in the center of the piece.
A beautiful piece of art, situated in the Memorial Park, just a few meters away from the Jiu river. A serene and (almost) quiet spot seemed like the perfect place for this work of art.
Alley of Chairs (Aleea scaunelor)
A series of mini chairs along the main avenue in the park. They connect the Table of Silence with the Gate of the Kiss. The 15 stools arranged in groups of three on each side of the avenue were not made to sit on them: they represent the connection between life and death, sacred and profane, mind and soul.
Gate of the Kiss (Poarta sărutului)
The third piece in the famous ensemble is the Gate of the Kiss: an triumphal arch made out of marble that features the motif of kiss on its pillars. These motifs are the signatures of Brâncuși. The gate has a height of 5.13 m and a width of 6.45 m.
It is said that if you kiss under the Gate of the Kiss your love will last forever and ever. (Just kidding, I invented this to keep the romance alive 😀 ).
Endless Column (Coloana Infinitului)
A 30 meter high column of zinc, brass-clad, cast-iron modules threaded onto a steel spine. The column is made of 17 rhomboidal modules.
The Endless Column symbolizes the connection between heaven and earth. Brâncuși had an affinity to the sacred, cosmic: the idea of infinity is suggested by the repetition of the identical forms.
I was pleasantly surprised by this sculpture: I never thought it was this monumental. We learned about it in school many times, but nobody told me about its glowing beauty and elegance. Seeing it for the first time during the golden hour made me realize that the art of Brâncuși truly reached infinity.
Visiting the city of Târgu Jiu
Where is Târgu Jiu?
The city is situated at the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the banks of the Jiu river in Romania. Târgu Jiu is the “capital” of Gorj County with a population of 78 000. The Jiu Valley is a scenic part of Romania, perfect for a road trip.
Things to visit in Târgu Jiu
Apart from the works of Constatin Brâncuși there’s not much to do in the city. There is an Art Museum, the Gorj County Museum (Muzeul de Istorie Alexandru Stefulescu) and the Ecaterina Teodoroiu Memorial House.
You can visit the Constatin Brâncuși Memorial house in Hobita, situated 25 km north of Târgu Jiu.
We did not visit any museums (sigh), as we only spent an afternoon and a night in the city. But we did find some nice buildings 😀
I love these details!
Romania at its best 😀
Ran into a random folk performance
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