A Contemporary Monument for a Contemporary World.
Constantin Brâncuși was a Romanian sculptor, painter and photographer who turned his back on the traditions of the art academy and sot to return to a primitive and simplistic artistic outpour. Considered a pioneer of modernism, in his life he became one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th-century – he has even been referred to as the patriarch (or head) of modern sculpture.
Although know for several ground breaking sculptures produced throughout his lifetime, Brancusi’s most iconic and best known work is his Endless Column, which can be found in Târgu Jiu, Romania, close to the artist’s home town.
What most are unaware of however, is that Endless Column is actually part of a trilogy of war memorial sculptures which Brancusi was commissioned to make and install within a memorial park in Târgu Jiu, Romania. These were commissioned by the Romanian government in 1935 as a way of marking the ultimate sacrifice made by so many Romanian soldiers during the first world war.
The trilogy of works within the park are as follows:
1. Endless Column
2. The Gate of The Kiss
3. The Table of Silence
Below you will find a short depiction and explanation into each work which was commissioned.
Known as Endless Column or to some, the Infinity Column, this is arguably one of the artist’s greatest works ever produced. Moreover, it is also considered to be one of the greatest public sculptures ever made.
The Endless Column symbolises the concept of infinity and the infinite sacrifice of the Romanian soldiers. The Column stacks 15 rhomboidal modules, with a half-unit at the top and bottom, making a total of 16. The incomplete top unit is thought to be the element that expresses the concept of the infinite.
Brâncuși had experimented with this form as early as 1918, with an oak version now found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In the 1950s, the Romanian communist government planned to demolish the column, but this plan was never executed. After the Romanian Revolution of 1989 and the fall of the Communist regime, there was renewed interest in restoring the column, which by that time suffered from tilting, cracking, metal corrosion, and an unstable foundation.
A major restoration project began in 1997, which enabled the sculpture to be returned to its former glory.
The Gate of The Kiss
The Gate of the Kiss was created as a Triumphal arch.
Decorated throughout with a repetitive circular motive on each of the eight pillars - which is then separated down the middle making the form appear as two semi circles which meet. Some art critics have interpreted this motif as the eyes looking inside the gate, while others see a couple kissing.
I personally think it is a nod to one of Brancusi’s other well-known works call ‘The Kiss’ which shows two fingers within an embrace.
Whatever you see and whatever the gate makes you feel, this work symbolises the transition and passing of life to death. As well as the triumph of life over death.
The eight pillars of the work are also said to represent the unification of the eight regions of Romania.
The Table of Silence
The Table of Silence stands at the western end of Târgu Jiu's central park on the banks of the Jiu River.
The work is comprised of a circular stone table with 12 chairs.
The table represents a place where soldiers gather in silence before a battle to contemplate what is before them.
There is one chair for each month of the year which are all shaped like hourglasses. This symbolises the passing of time.
I find this monument very ground breaking and contemporary for its time, considering Britain’s war memorials tend to lean to the more traditional bronze figures on horseback and figures of soldiers at war in our public sculpture realm.
Although a memorial to the fallen, the work speaks loudly on many levels.
The passing of time
It stops and makes you think in a way our British memorials fall short of.
It makes you ponder the point of war and at the end of the day, the things that are really important.
And although it is a monument to the fallen, it is a monument which sparks so much wonder, thought and hope.
A contemporary monument for a contemporary world which holds a power in its message which will never fall silent.
Jo McLaughlin July 2020
Fun Fact 1: Brancusi is considered a national hero in his home country of Romania. So much so, each year Romanians observe Brancusi Day on February 19th, the artist’s birthday. Although not a national holiday where people get the day off - it is a national working day of celebration where parties are held to celebrate the life and work of the artist throughout Romania. This was passed by the Romanian government in 2015.
Fun Fact 2: There is an entire Instagram page devoted to this work set up by 2 Romanian artists who invite others to, take a look at their Instagram page: @theendlesscolumn
‘Work like a slave; command like a king; create like a god."
"There are idiots who define my work as abstract; yet what they call abstract is what is most realistic. What is real is not the appearance, but the idea, the essence of things."
"I ground matter to find the continuous line. And when I realized I could not find it, I stopped, as if an unseen someone had slapped my hands."
“To see far is one thing – going there is another’.
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