The sculptures of Constantin Brancusi in Targu Jiu

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

Constantin Brancusi is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, marking a revolution in modern sculpture. In fact, his works were so much ahead of his time that when he traveled to America for an exhibition they were confiscated by the customs authorities who could not conceive that sculptures could look that abstract in the beginning of the previous century.
After gaining full recognition in Paris and around the world, Brancusi returned to his home country, in Targu Jiu, not far from his village, Hobita, for a monumental ensemble that would completely change the face of the city. It was a series of three monuments spanning 1,2 km and including local elements as the river Jiu and the city church.
The series of sculptures in Targu Jiu were commissioned in 1937 by the widows of the Romanian soldiers that died in the first world war and at that time Constantin Brancusi was already a famous artist throughout the world.

The first one is situated right next to the river Jiu, where battles with the Germans were fought and it’s called The Table of Silence (Masa Tacerii). Its symbolism spans from that of the Last Supper, with the 12 stone chairs representing the apostles, to the last dinner in a family of a soldier going to war. As other sculptures by Brancusi its genius resides in its simplicity, the artist underlining that he is not an abstract artist, but one that aims at capturing the essence of a concept by reducing it to its primordial lines.
The chairs in form of an hourglass can also be seen on the alley that leads to the second element of this group: The Gate of Kiss (Poarta Sarutului). It is an arch of triumph in the Roman style with just a few folkloric carvings. It is a reinterpretation of the sculpture that marked the separation of Brancusi from his master, Auguste Rodin.
In order to reach the third and most famous element of the ensemble, the visitor must follow an initiating path through the city, reaching the church Saints Apostles and than, after a kilometer, the Column of Endless Gratitude (Coloana recunostintei fara sfarsit), or the Column of Infinity, as it is also known. It is a pillar of 30 m high, formed of 17 modules, that force the viewer to lift his eyes to the sky.

In the 50′, when Romania was occupied by the Soviet Union, the communists considered the monuments of Brancusi as a form of western decadent and mystical art and were about to destroy them. They gave up the idea, but instead they altered the artistic concept by building houses and a railroad between the Endless Column and the rest of the monuments, covering the obvious link of the group of sculptures with the local church.

Constantin Brancusi started sculpting in his childhood when he was a shepherd, making wooden spoons and other tools. He was than an apprentice in Targu Jiu and when he was sent to the art school in Bucharest had to learn to read and write on his own at 20 years old. He earned his living with his sculptures in Vienna, Munich, Bucharest and Paris where he attended Ecole des Beaux Arts.
He simply walked from Vienna to Paris to meet the modernist Auguste Rodin. He will soon leave his workshop with the famous words: “nothing grows in the shade of great trees”.
The works of Constantin Brancusi were greatly appreciated in the artistic world, some being sold for amazing prices in international auctions: “Madame L. R.” for over 37 million dollars, “Bird in Space“, for 27,5 million dollars, “Danaide“, for over 18 million dollars . Among the most famous works by Brancusi are: “The Kiss”, “Mrs Pogany”, “Maiastra”, “Princess X”, “Prayer”, “The Quietness of The Earth”, “Sleeping Muze”.

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