Gifted to New York's legendary Gotham Book Mart, which was founded in 1920.
The Romanian-born artist Constantin Brâncusi (1876-1956), who is best known for his modernist sculptures, was also an accomplished fine art photographer. Brâncusi began exploring photography as a creative medium at the outset of his career, in the early 1900s, and continued to make images in his beautiful studio in to the 1930s. His photographs are autonomous artworks that reveal a nuanced sensitivity to how light--photography's agent--can best be employed to render 3-dimensional forms in a pictorial frame.
This photograph features four of his iconic sculptures. A skylight illuminates some of the works while others are in shadow, creating a space that John Coplans once characterized as a kind of Cubism. In the foreground, in the central area of the composition, is "L'Oiselet II" (ca. 1928), which he had previously sculpted in bronze. In the middle ground is "White Negress" (1923), an attenuated figure in veined white marble to the immediate right. "Socrates" (ca. 1922), sculpted of wood, was inspired by Brancusi's relationship with the composer Erik Satie (to whom he referred as Socrates), and appears in the background, at left. The white marbled "Muse" (ca. 1912), an abstract face, is poised at the far right, also in the background. In addition there are numerous pedestals of marble and wood visible throughout.
Each sculpture, which reflects vastly different figurative and non-figurative forms, was displayed on a handmade pedestal that Brâncusi considered an integral part of the final presentation. The materials Brâncusi regularly sculpted, wood and marble, may also be seen in the composition, including a vertical block of marble that bisects the frame.
"Socrates" has been in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, which notes, "Socrates was the first wooden sculpture by Brâncusi acquired by MoMA. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the Museum's founding director, doggedly pursued it for years before it entered the collection, ca. 1956."
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