Born into a family of peasants in a small Romanian village, the modern sculptor Constantin Brâncuși (1876 – 1957) never lost track of his roots and humble beginnings. Even after he moved to Paris and built a prolific career in France, Brâncuși continued to present himself to the world as a peasant, with his unkempt appearance and simple clothing.
He combined his passion for Romanian folktales and mythology with the simplicity of the peasant life, resulting in masterful pieces of art, devoid of unnecessary embellishments. His quest? To capture the very essence of his subjects, to define the indefinable, the ephemeral. Like many in the French avant-garde, Brâncuși would also be inspired by African art.
The Kiss (1907) is a sculpture directly carved in stone that depicts a couple from their torsos up, kissing and melting in a loving embrace, their arms wrapped around one another. The two symmetrical halves are barely differentiated in their simplicity, for it’s their unity that draws in the viewer. Choosing a rough stone over the classical marble, Brâncuși gave the sculpture an archaic, yet modern look (thanks to its abstractionism), in contrast with the literal style at the time, represented by the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin.
Brâncuși’s inspiration for this artwork is likely to have been The Kiss (1882) by Rodin, the Romanian’s execution pointing to the obvious differences in vision between the two artists. This new approach to art had been foreseen by a previous event: after having been accepted to Rodin’s workshop in 1906, Brâncuși left after just two months, allegedly saying “Nothing can grow in the shadow of large trees” (Rien ne pousse à l’ombre des grands arbres). Eager to forge his own path, he became a pioneer of modern abstract sculpture and one of the most celebrated sculptors of the 20th century.