The Romanian avant-garde artist Constantin Brancusi is considered one of the most significant artists of modern sculpture. This is due to his innovative use of materials, such as wood and marble, and his reduction and precision of form. Brancusi developed his abstraction with "primitive" sources of art in mind. This thesis examines how and to what extent primitivism played a central role in Brancusi's sculptures and his construction as a primitive artist.
Romanian folk art and African art were the two main sources of influence on Brancusi's primitivism. Brancusi identified himself with the Romanian peasantry and its folk culture. Romanian folk culture embraces woodcarving and folk literary fables--both of which Brancusi incorporated in his sculptures. In my opinion, Brancusi's wood pedestals, such as the Endless Column, are based on wood funerary, decorative, and architectural motifs from Romanian villages.
Brancusi was exposed to African art through his relationship with the New York avant-garde. The art dealers Alfred Stieglitz, Marius de Zayas, and Joseph Brummer exhibited Brancusi's sculptures in their galleries, in addition to exhibiting African art. Meanwhile, Brancusi's main patron John Quinn also collected African art. His interaction with the New York avant-garde led him to incorporate formal features of African sculpture, such as the oval forms of African masks, into his abstract sculptures. Brancusi also used African art to expose the racial prejudice of his time. African art, along with Romanian folk art, informed Brancusi's primitivism consistently throughout his long career as a modern sculptor.