Born in 1876 in Romania, Brâncuși moved to Paris in 1904 joining the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, after studying in Romania and Bucharest. He secured a position as an assistant at Auguste Rodin’s studio in 1907. At first the fragmentation of Rodin’s figures, which would emerge and disappear as if moving, inspired him but increasingly he became frustrated with Rodin’s conventional techniques of molding in clay and casting the results. When he left the studio it gave him the impetus to find his own path. Brâncuși returned to the source - directly carving in stone. In 1908, this was radical.
‘Sleeping Muse’ (1910) is a perfect example of the work that grew out of this shift. The portrait of artist Margit Pogany is reduced to a head lying on its side. Her facial features are depicted in egg-like simplicity. The stone artwork, later cast in gleaming smooth bronze, redefined the concept beauty. The seeming primitivism of his ‘The Kiss’ was equally revolutionary. Here two crudely carved figures embrace in a single block of stone, looking almost pre-human. It was a million miles from Rodin’s lush representational figures and equally as emotional. His ultra-polished bronze objects were also sexy. The work was ovoid, androgynous, geometric. He didn’t care about representing something as a human eye would see it, instead searching instead for his subject’s inner essence. Brâncuși often quoted the French poet Nicolas Boileau phrase to support his approach: “rien n’est beau que la vrai”—nothing is beautiful except that which is true.”