Born in 1876 to an impoverished Romanian peasant family, Brancusi showed early talent at wood carving. After attending art schools in Craiova and Bucharest, he moved to France in 1904. He worked briefly with Rodin, before setting up on his own. Welcomed by the vibrant Parisian avant garde, Brancusi became a pioneer of modernism, and was friend and contemporary to Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp, among others. Unlike most sculptors at the time, who worked in clay or plaster, Brancusi carved wood or stone, or cast in bronze, fashioning striking pieces of abstraction that captured the essence of his subject. He considered the sculpture’s base as important as the work itself, constructing intricate works of art that extended and supported the original sculpture.
Proud of his peasant roots, Brancusi’s studio resembled the simple cottage he grew up in, with a rock slab for a table, and furniture he’d made himself. Influenced by mythology, Romanian folklore, and “primitive” art, Brancusi’s work is iconic, and unmistakably his. This archetypal style has influenced generations of artists, and led him to be called “the father of modern sculpture.”