Constantin Brancusi. Endless Column. version I, 1918

Constantin Brancusi Endless Column version I, 1918

  • The Museum of Modern Art, Floor 2, Exhibition Galleries

This sculpture is the earliest extant Endless Column. In preceding years Brancusi had used a single or double pyramid as a base for his sculpture, but he eventually came to see this abstract construction as a fully realized work in its own right. Carved from oak, this succession of pyramids forms a rhythmic and undulating geometry that suggests the possibility of infinite expansion. Like other favorite motifs, this was one that Brancusi would return to over the course of his career. In the mid-1920s, he carved an Endless Column for his friend the photographer Edward Steichen that rose more than twenty-three feet. And in 1937 Brancusi erected a steel Endless Column in Tîrgu-Jiu, Romania, that soared more than ninety-eight feet into the air. That Endless Column, his last, was part of a larger sculptural ensemble that included The Gate of the Kiss and Table of Silence, which formed the artist’s only foray into public sculpture.

Gallery label from Constantin Brancusi Sculpture, 2018

Brancusi made several versions of his Endless Column, this one being the first he fully developed. It consists of a single symmetrical element, a pair of truncated pyramids stuck together at their base, then repeated to produce a continuous rhythmic line. In replicating the same abstract shape, Brancusi emphasized its potential for vertical expansion—it was, he later said, a “column for infinity.” In Brancusi’s work generally the pedestal that traditionally supported sculpture, usually a secondary element, took on a new prominence, often equal to that of the artwork itself: he first used the geometric motif seen here in bases for his sculptures, but gradually realized its value as an independent form. He later repeated the Endless Column on larger scales and in different materials, making it serve as an architectural element and a monument. This version is carved directly in oak, with gouges and cuts in the wood readily apparent, so that it straightforwardly declares its own materials and process of making. Its simplicity, directness, and modularity helped to define the foundational principles of modern abstract sculpture.

Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.
Medium
Oak
Dimensions
6' 8" x 9 7/8" x 9 5/8" (203.2 x 25.1 x 24.5 cm)
Credit
Gift of Mary Sisler
Object number
645.1983
Copyright
© Succession Brancusi - All rights reserved (ARS) 2018
Department
Painting and Sculpture

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This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.

The artist, Paris; sold (through Henri-Pierre Roché) to John Quinn (1870-1924), New York, 1922 [1]; Estate of John Quinn, 1924 [2]; sold to Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) and Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959), Paris, 1926 [3]; sold from the Roché Collection to Jon N. Streep, Amsterdam, 1957 [4]; sold to Mary Sisler, Palm Beach, FL [5]; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Gift of Mary Sisler), 1983.

[1]Letter Quinn to Brancusi, March 10, 1922, Quinn Memorial Collection, Manuscripts Division, New York Public Library, qtd. in Francis M. Naumann, ed., The Mary and William Sisler Collection, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1984, pp. 50-60. See also Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin, eds., Constantin Brancusi, 1876-1957, exh. cat. Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1995, p. 162.
[2] Included in the exhibition Brancusi, Brummer Gallery, New York, 1926, no. 31 (Column Without End).
[3] Scarlett et Philippe Reliquet, Henri-Pierre Roché: l'enchanteur collectionneur, Paris: Ramsay, 1999, p. 313. On loan to Katherine Dreier, West Redding, CT, 1935-1945; and on loan to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1945-1956 (Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin, eds., Constantin Brancusi, 1876-1957, p. 162).
[4] Ibid., p. 280, fn. 2. Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin, eds., Constantin Brancusi, 1876-1957, p. 162.
[5] Francis M. Naumann, ed., The Mary and William Sisler Collection, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1984, pp. 50-60.

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