Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1914 (Heft 45)

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with uncertainty, and greatly suggesting a degenerate humanity. The sculptures are those of a
highly accomplished technician whose mind works with symbols, not with explanation or repre-
sentation. They are interesting and seductive, intellectual and mystic. Probably no other age
could have produced them, and as an expression of contemporary tendencies they are important,
but they miss nobility of design.
W. B. McCormick in the New York Press:
The two “leading ladies” of the international exhibition in the Sixty-ninth Regiment
Armory last spring were unquestionably the “ Nude Descending the Staircase ” and Mile. Pogany,
whose egg-shaped head we were told represented the work of Constantine Brancusi. The notor-
ious nude was the most perfect case on record of Hamlet with the Prince of Denmark left out,
and Brancusi’s success with the populace was one only of ribald mirth. Yet the people remem-
bered that painting and that sculpture, when they forgot most of the other things in the exhibi-
tion completely.
There was one voice in the howling wilderness of talk created by the armory show, how-
ever, that insisted the art of Constantine Brancusi was not adequately represented by a plaster
cast of only one of his works. Now that voice demonstrates the wisdom and force animating it
by showing eight of Brancusi’s sculptures in the Photo-Secession Gallery, where they may be
seen until April i.
Curious this exhibition is, even for the Photo-Secession Gallery, that has sheltered more
strange forms of art in its lifetime than any other gallery in this city. All one sees in the first of
the little rooms are six marble and bronze heads, in which the egg-shaped vision of Mile. Pogany
is the dominant note, and a curious, ungainly figure made of wood stained to represent age.
In the second room, perched atop of a packing box, is a brazen bird that bears no resemblance
to any known form in ornithology, although it has been compared superficially to one of the
sacred birds in Egyptian art.
To me Brancusi’s idea of the human head being as markedly egg-shaped as he makes it
is a pure affectation and not at all an original one. For several years now such a head has stood in
one of the wall cases in a remote stairway in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so that Brancusi’s
form has been antedated. And just why, in one of these marble heads, he should represent
his original with a swollen face and a goitre is not easy of solution. But he makes the visitor
forget much of this posturing by the sheer exquisite beauty of his “Sleeping Muse” in marble
in a new fashion in sculpture which Rodin seems to have started (see his “Martyr” in the Metro-
politan), which is shown lying flat on a tabular surface raised only a few inches above the
Exquisite as this head is, shorn as it is of almost every trace of pose entering into portraits
of the Mile. Pogany order (for affectation still lingers in its scheme of being placed), there is some-
thing quite as admirable in the head, that being the remarkable craftsmanship of the artist. The
treatment of the surface is truly extraordinary in these days when a sculptor is content to see
a clay sketch cast in bronze. And the beautiful, patient intelligent craftsmanship which has gone
into the fashioning of all these heads and that wonderful brazen bird is—to me—the most
satisfying thing that has come to us from France in many a year. That there is an artist living
today who can rival the ancient Chinese craftsmen in sheer perfection of technique is a joyous
thing to contemplate, even if that artist does insist on giving us egg-headed, pop-eyed Mile.
The sculptor calls his wooden figure in the first room “The Prodigal Son.” Mr. Stieglitz
calls it “First Steps”—which may or may not mean the same thing. Mr. Stieglitz’s legend,
however, gives point to the figure, which will need much pointing, we fear, to the average
intelligence. Possibly the answer may be to that that average intelligences are not to be found
frequenting the Photo-Secession Gallery. But if Mr. Brancusi has simply set about representing
the idea of the effort at balancing, which goes with an infant’s first essays in walking, he has
succeeded admirably. That his representation is as beautiful as our more conventional sculp-
tures we do not believe for a moment. For the weakness of this particular piece of sculpture
as in the case of the head of Mile. Pogany—is that it has to be explained. “The Sleeping Muse”
and the brazen bird explain themselves.

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