Bench

Constantin Brancusi, French (born Romania), 1876 - 1957

Date:
1914-1916

Medium:
Oak

Dimensions:
26 3/4 x 124 x 10 inches (67.9 x 315 x 25.4 cm)

Copyright:
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

* Gallery 188, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor (Brodsky Gallery)

Accession Number:
1950-134-23

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Additional information:
  • PublicationConstantin Brancusi: 1876-1957

    Bench manifests little intervention by Brancusi beyond the choice and arrangement of its four wooden components. The weathered beams, salvaged from demolished structures, retain vestiges of their previous life: nails, wooden dowels, faded whitewash, and extensive insect tunneling. Even the construction workers' faint incisions remain on the beams' surfaces. Brancusi worried about misinterpretations of his motive in working with old materials. In a 1916 letter to Walter Pach, he said, "I would not wish for these works to be taken as antique imitations, for I do not think of them at all that way - I desired only to show to advantage these old woods that I love so dearly, and I have worked with them just as I would work with new" (Brancusi to Pach, October 4, 1916, Quinn Collection, NYPL).

    Bench is composed of two long horizontal beams and two shorter "feet." Two dowels connect the beams to each other, and two more dowels attach the feet. The slight sagging of the center element suggests that Brancusi placed it in its original orientation; it may have once been part of a roof. The two feet differ significantly. The left foot features two shallow square mortises for perpendicular beams to enter. Brancusi gouged a long path across the right foot, the only carving on the Bench characteristic of later sculptures such as Adam and Eve (The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum) and many of his oak bases. An early photograph reveals that Bench first existed not with feet but with a vertical block at each side. In the same letter to Pach, Brancusi notes, "I have made some minor changes to the caryatid and to the bench - and it is for the better." Brancusi's alteration resulted in a more insistently frontal and assertive Bench. Ann Temkin, from Constantin Brancusi 1876-1957 (1995), p.132.

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