2006 Title » Art/Criticism
Brancusi & Romanian Folk Traditions
Brancusi's Romanian heritage is an important subject for those who study the sculptor. He was 28 years old in 1904 when he arrived in Paris, where he spent the rest of his life. He considered himself Romanian, he dressed like a Romanian peasant, and lived like one. (He was in fact a sophisticated intellectual.)
When he arrived in Paris, the avant-garde was searching for original sources of inspiration. For many, African art filled that role. Brancusi found African art a trigger which released the reminiscences of his Romanian folk tradition. Brancusi used his heritage for formal and iconographical inspiration; however, his working method was inspired by the French avant-garde. Edith Balas shows that the pedestals and homemade furniture were for the artist as important an artistic product as his sculptures; he exchanged them occasionally. There are several new iconographical interpretations of sculptures previously not linked with the Romanian folklore.
Edith Balas has been Professor of Art History at Carnegie Mellon University for the past twenty-eight years, as well as Research Associate at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to more than twenty articles in American and European journals, her publications include Brancusi and the Romanian Folk Tradition (East European Monographs, 1987; also available in Romanian translation), Michelangelo's Medici Chapel: A New Interpretation (American Philosophical Society, 1995), Joseph Csáky, a Pioneer of Modern Sculpture (American Philosophical Society, 1998), The Holocaust in the Painting of Valentin Lustig (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002), The Mother Goddess in Italian Renaissance Art (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2002), The Early Work of Henry Koerner (Frick Art & Historical Center, 2003), and Brâncuşi és Brancusi (with Passuth Krisztina, Noran, Budapest, 2005). Dr. Balas has curated a number of exhibitions at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University, the Frick Art & Historical Center, the Institut Hongrois de Paris, and the Ernst Muzeum Budapest.
Edith Balas's book on Brancusi is not only essential to the understanding of his work within the context of Romanian folk art (visual and literary) but also has the unique distinction of emphasizing the importance of Brancusi's pedestals as wonderful and independent sculptures—a point of view that has been neglected by earlier Brancusi scholars.
—Athena Tacha (Spear), Professor Emerita of Art, Oberlin College
Her scholarly book on the influence of the traditional Romanian heritage on Constantin Brancusi is not only basic to an understanding of his work but has confronted art historians with a model based on a profoundly different methodology, i.e., an examination of local context and heritage.
—David Lewis, author and architect
To purchase Brancusi & Romanian Folk Traditions by Edith Balas, please contact our distributor, University Press of New England toll free at 1-800-421-1561 or by fax at 1-603-448-9729. The book is also available online at UPNE, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.
To request a copy for review, please contact the Carnegie Mellon University Press Editorial Offices at (412) 268-2861 or by email at CarnegieMellonUniversityPress@gmail.com.