1930 by Constantin Brancusi
MoMA, New York
Brancusi was a pioneer for Modernist sculpture. Romanian born, he followed the footsteps of the early twentieth-century’s artists trail, living in Paris. Despite initially working under Rodin he quickly moved away to develop his contemporarily innovative style, one that depended on simplicity to conjure the essence of subject. It takes great restraint, and a deep sense of one’s inspiration, to create such sculpture of simplicity, and it is no wonder that Brancusi was admired by his contemporaries for his approach. Fish is beautifully suspended; this suspension owing as much to the composition, in the way the sculpture evolves into its space, as the form itself. The length that stretches from either side of its minimal white support creates the freedom of being held in water, while the sand coloured rounds hint at the ground below – the first, larger, beginning the expanse of sea bed, the smaller longer circle tying this ground to the core of earth. The smooth, polished sides of the stone are beautifully evocative of the fish’s silverly, slippery surface; it glides through air as the fish does water, carried by the simple curves that set this object in motion, that give it a sense of life. The mottled colour of the stone, actually marble, heightens this sense of movement. The white streaks appear as natural go-faster-stripes, as well as making us think of the rippling texture of water. Fish is abstract only in literal style; it is far from it in approach, for what could be more summoning of a subject than a sense of its being and motion in the world.