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Brancusi grew up in a small village in Romania, a country in Eastern Europe.

The classical-looking sculpture of Auguste Rodin prompted Brancusi’s journey to Paris. But after a few years in Paris, Brancusi began creating abstract, simplified forms.
Auguste Rodin, The Cathedral, after 1908, bronze, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Werner Simon


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Although known as a pioneer of abstract sculpture, Brancusi began his career in a traditional way.

Constantin Brancusi was born in a small Romanian village in 1876. As the son of peasants, he did not attend school. Instead, at the age of seven he began working as a shepherd. During his early years he also learned to carve wood, a skill highly regarded in the Romanian countryside. When his great talent was noticed, he enrolled in the School of Arts and Crafts in nearby Craiova. Later, he won a contest for admission to the National School of Fine Arts in Bucharest.

Brancusi loved his home, but he wanted to experience the art world outside of Romania. He particularly wanted to go to Paris once he learned of the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin. In 1904, Brancusi traveled first to Munich, Germany, and then made his way to Paris. It is thought that he walked much of the way.

Rodin’s sculptures continued to interest Brancusi when he studied in Paris. The first artworks he showed at an important exhibition resembled Rodin’s sinewy figures. However, when invited to join Rodin’s workshop as an apprentice, Brancusi stayed only briefly, saying, “Nothing grows in the shade of a tall tree.” He soon abandoned his classical-looking sculptures and started experimenting with abstract forms.