Constantin Brancusi



Not on display

Constantin Brancusi 1876–1957
Original title
Object: 292 × 205 × 210 mm
Purchased 1980

Display caption

The basic oval form of Head is an example of the extreme simplicity of Brancusi's wooden carvings. Brancusi associated direct carving and a sympathy for natural materials with the peasant traditions of his native Romania, as well as with African sculpture. Head was originally part of a larger work known as Plato or Little French Girl II, which also included a pole-like neck, torso, legs and large protruding feet. Brancusi cut off the head around 1923 and apparently threw the rest away.

Gallery label, July 2008

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Catalogue entry

T03066 HEAD c.1919–23


Not inscribed
Oak, 11 1/4 × 7 11/16 × 8 1/2 (29.4 × 19.5 × 20.5)
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Prov: Yolanda Penteado, São Paulo (acquired from the artist c.1950–52); sold by her at Sotheby's, London, 26 March 1980, lot 57 colour
Exh: Brancusi, Brummer Gallery, New York, November 1933–January 1934 (47); Constantin Brancusi, Guggenheim Museum, New York, October 1955–January 1956 (works not numbered); Philadelphia Museum of Art, January–February 1956 (works not numbered); Constantin Brancusi 1876–1957: a Retrospective Exhibition, Philadelphia Museum of Art, September–November 1969 (works not numbered, repr.); Guggenheim Museum, New York, November 1969–February 1970 (works not numbered, repr.); Art Institute of Chicago, March–April 1970 (works not numbered, repr.); Constantin Brancusi, Muzeul de Arta R.S.R., Bucharest, June–August 1970; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, September–November 1970 (26, repr.); Constantin Brancusi: Plastiken-Zeichnungen, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg, July–September 1976 (10, repr.)
Lit: Sidney Geist, Brancusi, New York 1968, no.145, pp.67, 226, repr.p.85 as ‘Head’ 1923, the work in its original, larger state as no.114 ‘Little French Girl II’ 1918?, pp.67 and 223, repr.p.66; Sidney Geist, Brancusi: The Sculpture and Drawings, New York 1975, no.152, p.186, repr.p.108 as ‘Head’ 1919–23, the work in its original state, with a downward extension to the slab-like form of the head, as no.122, p.183 repr., and without this extension, as no.123, p.183, repr.pp.182 and 183 (both entitled and dated ‘Plato’ 1919–20)
Repr: Art News, LIV, November 1955, p.25; The Tate Gallery: Illustrated Biennial Report 1980–82, 1983, p.35

This head is all that remains of a sculpture about 43 inches high known as ‘Plato’ or ‘Little French Girl II’, which appears in a number of photographs of Brancusi's studio taken about 1919–23. Similar in form to ‘Little French Girl I’ of c.1914–18, now in the Guggenheim Museum, New York, it also included a squat torso, standing on a pair of legs with large projecting feet, and a tall pole-like segmented neck some 18 inches high. Brancusi cut off the head in 1923 or later and apparently threw the rest away. The earliest photographs show that the horizontal slab-like section of the head also originally had a vertical (downward) extension about six inches long with a serrated front edge. Brancusi seems to have cut this off and simplified the form about 1920. One of the photographs of Brancusi's studio reproduced in the Little Review, VIII, no.1, in the autumn of 1921 shows it with this extension (pl.6), while another (pl.7) appears to show it without. In This Quarter, 1, no.1, 1925 (17th plate) there is a photograph of the full-length work standing beside the larger wood carving ‘Socrates’ now in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the two works are captioned ‘Socrates and Plato’. However the photograph was probably taken before 1925 and the sculpture may have already been cut down by this date. The last dateable photographs to show it intact (dateable by the other works shown present in the studio) appear to be two views taken in 1923, which are reproduced in Brancusi Photographe published by the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, in 1979, pls.31 and 32.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984

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