Although Brancusi worked primarily as a sculptor, the artist completed a limited number of works on paper, many of which he made for his friends or patrons when they visited his studio. According to Brancusi scholar Margit Rowell, this body of work numbers between 150-200, though examples as complete as the present work are rare within this group.
In contrast to the process of sculpting in marble or wood, drawing provided Brancusi with more immediacy of expression and encouraged a freer exploration of form, yet the change in medium did not deter him from his primary goal: to strip down detail and focus on line. Dr. Friedrich Teja Bach, another leading scholar on Brancusi, explains: “Simplicity is thus the outcome of the artist’s effort to resolve the complexity of natural forms. But there is more to resolution than mere elimination: it is also the preservation, even the generation, of form… Essential form in Brancusi is not reductive but productive. It is defined not by the precision of geometry but by the (in every sense) pregnant concision of life” (Constantin Brancusi: 1876-1957 (exhibition catalogue), Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris & Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1995, p. 23).
Nu is divided into three horizontal sections in a softly gradated palette to suggest a sense of depth. The model’s limbs are outlined with the aid of negative space where Brancusi has left the ground unworked. The clean lines and restraint of the present gouache suggest that his works on paper deserve the same level of critical attention as his work in stone or metal. As Rowell writes, “In his drawings...Brancusi provides significant clues as to his vision and his priorities… [His drawings bear] witness to an approach entirely consistent with his vision of the world and his approach to form” (ibid., pp. 287-88).
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