Today, we wanted to explore a pillar of our inspiration; the work of famous sculptor Constantin Brancusi. We first learned about Brancusi while we were in Paris. Though we didn't get to see his work or his atelier, we were recommended to visit it by several like-minded tourists we met along the way who were similarly fixated on seeing all the beauty this city had to offer. Upon reading about him, and increasingly becoming drawn to his work, we became inspired. And while there are several aspects of Brancusi’s life work that inspire us, including his consistent commitment to his work and his will to forge a path untravelled by others, none are more important than the authenticity of his hands-on approach of direct carving.

Brancusi was able to carve his artistic vision directly from a block of stone, a rare skill that resulted in only the artist themselves being able to see the final product before it was complete. This approach is very similar to Jesse’s approach of sketching every facet of a home. As we read about Brancusi’s life’s work through the recorded accounts of close friends and public statements he made throughout his career, we felt a sense of validation. This isn't to say that we do experience validation through our work and others' appreciation of it, but it speaks to our experience of taking the “hard road” when designing homes to ensure their authenticity is both recognizable and unreplicable from a proportionality and cohesivity perspective. As Jesse put it, “sketching is to home design, what direct carving is to sculpture. Only the artist can see the finished product before it’s complete.” This idea holds true in several aspects of our work. It is for these reasons that we wanted to peel back the layers of our inspiration by offering our readers some insight into the life’s work of the patriarch of contemporary sculpture.






Constantin Brancusi was formally educated in Romania as a woodworker and sculptor. After working in Bucharest as an assistant to Dimitrie Paciurea, a prominent Romanian sculptor, Brancusi gained valuable knowledge about his craft. From there, Brancusi moved to Munich to study at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in order to further his artistic training.

And at last, in 1904 Brancusi moved to Paris at the age of 28, famously walking from his hometown of Hobița to Paris over the course of several months. The walk, spanning over 1200 kilometers, marked a significant turning point in his career, while being a clear display of his resolve if nothing else, even if he was forced to due to lack of funds available to pay for more efficient forms of travel. This move allowed him to experience the thriving artistic scene that was growing in Paris, immersing himself in the vibrance of the creativity that surrounded him, and positioning himself as a pioneering sculptor in the modernist scene.


IIn 1907, Brancusi worked with Auguste Rodin for but a month by some accounts, and several years in others. The former timeline seems more believable through the eyes of Carmen Gimenez, the author of Constantin Brancusi; The Essence of Things. She explained that while Rodin was respected by Brancusi, his resolve and respect for his own work as a direct competitor was far more apparent in his actions. While working with Rodin, Brancusi was carving marble using a pointing machine to replicate the clay models created by Rodin. However, Brancusi’s style was far more exploratory and hands-on than this, choosing to carve his figures directly from blocks of stone.

We find inspiration in Brancusi’s work because of his insistence on self-reliance through his creative process. Instead of creating clay models, using a pointing machine, and having craftsmen carve replicas of his clay models out of marble, Brancusi preferred to work with the material himself, grinding, chipping, and splitting each piece of stone that was delivered to his workshop. Only he could find the image through cooperation with the material. He envisaged the form within the block; he didn’t impose it. This practice, called direct carving, was unique for his time, and it would become the differentiating factor that made Brancusi’s work so special. Similar to sketching, direct carving produces artwork that is an intrinsic representation of the artist's signature, ultimately capturing the feeling that the artist is looking for when they look at it.

However, The National School of Fine Arts in Bucharest, Romania, where Constantin Brancusi studied, stated that stone carving was not taught there. According to Gimenez, when looking at the work of his past friends, one in particular named Gheoghe Luchian who was killed in service during World War I, there are clear displays of a similar style of carving. This evidence led her to the conclusion that direct carving was more widespread than anyone thought during this period in France, and that it was an exploration undertaken with friends in informal creative settings rather than through formal instruction. This explains the uneven development of Brancusi’s early style.






In 1916, his public works projects funded his move to a larger studio, located at 54 rue du Montparnasse. This studio served as his creative sanctuary and workspace until his death in 1957. This workshop was an extension of his creative spirit, a sacred place to him. He ensured that visitors of his crowded studio took care to not even brush against one of his works. This reflected less his fear of potential accidents than the perceived “spiritual” delicacy of his works. This connection between the spirit of his work and the fragility of the experience he was trying to capture was central to his identity as an artist. He had an obsession with capturing unique and instantaneous existential sensations and feelings, as reflected in his explanation of his sculpture Fish. When designing this famous sculpture, Brancusi explained that by detailing it with scales or fins, he would lead you to fixate on these details, details that you wouldn't have the chance to fixate on if the fish had swam by you in the water. We thought this to be a wonderfully accurate depiction of his approach.

In 1956, Brancusi donated his studio to the French government, and it has been preserved as the Museé National d’Art Moderne. A stipulation of his was that the studio was preserved exactly as it was while he was alive, preserving his name and offering future generations to experience the space where he created many of his iconic sculptures. And while this move achieved just that, it also significantly contributed to the cultural heritage of France, where Brancusi lived and worked for much of his career.



As he rose to prominence within the international design community, he increasingly made trips back and forth to New York City, both selling and showcasing his works at trade shows. Oftentimes he would sell plaster or wood recreations of his sculptures at these events, as was common during this time period.

Through these travels, Brancusi found himself caught in a controversial court case when his Bird in Space sculpture was categorized as a manufactured home decor product instead of art, resulting in a high rate of taxation being applied. Brancusi fought the case, publicly stating, "I have created a work of art, not a piece of merchandise. My sculpture embodies my artistic vision and should be recognized as such." The court eventually ruled in his favor, setting the stage for what was a formative precedent set for how art is defined and taxed in the United States of America. His victory was one for all artists of this time.




All of Brancusi’s work, being rooted in the practice of direct carving, continues to be an inspiration to us to continue to take the hard road and sketch every home we design. Seeing each home as a sculpture that can only truly be seen by Jesse as his sketches are complete and using this exploratory approach to uncover the hidden beauty that lurks in his mind offered us a unique way of looking at what we do. While there is much more to cover about this inspiring artist that we haven’t even begun to dive into, we recommend what has quickly become one of my favourite biographies to read: The Essence of Things by Carmen Gimenez and Matthew Gale.

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