Brancusi made his most obvious reference to African art in his first wood sculpture, The First Step (1913). Shortly after exhibiting the work at 291 in March 1914, Brancusi partly destroyed it, perhaps finding its quotation of African aesthetics too immediate. Luckily, the sculpture remains known through the many studies that preceded its creation, among them this lucid 1913 wax-crayon study. Stieglitz's photographs of the Brancusi installation at 291 also document the lost sculpture. When comparing these installation shots with those of Statuary in Wood by African Savages, the central placement of both the Fang reliquary figure exhibited nearby and The First Step brings to light strong similarities.
Inscription: Signed (lower right): C. Brancusi
the artist (to Steichen or to Stieglitz); Alfred Stieglitz, New York (ca. 1914–d. 1946; his estate, 1946–49; gift to MMA)
New York. 291. "An Exhibition of Original Sculpture, in Bronze, Marble, and Wood, by Constantine Brancusi, of Paris," March 12–April 1, 1914, extended to April 4, 1914, not in brochure [possibly this work].
New York. An American Place. "Beginnings and Landmarks: "291," 1905–1917," October 27–December 27, 1937, no. 24 [possibly this work].
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "History of an American, Alfred Stieglitz: '291' and After, Selections from the Stieglitz Collection," July 1–November 1, 1944, no. 110.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Alfred Stieglitz: His Photographs and His Collection," February 2–29, 1948, extended to March 7, 1948, no catalogue (checklist no. 37).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "From the Alfred Stieglitz Collection: An Extended Loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 22–August 12, 1951, no catalogue (checklist no. E.L.51.645; loan extended to June 9, 1958).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection," September 9–November 12, 1967, no catalogue (unnumbered checklist).
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957: A Retrospective Exhibition," September 26–November 2, 1969, unnumbered cat. (pp. 64, 141).
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957: A Retrospective Exhibition," November 21, 1969–February 15, 1970, unnumbered cat.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957: A Retrospective Exhibition," March 14–April 26, 1970, unnumbered cat.
Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957," April 14–August 21, 1995, no. 128.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957," October 8–December 31, 1995, no. 128.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe," October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012, no. 2.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "African Art, New York, and the Avant-Garde," November 27, 2012–April 14, 2013, extended to Sept 2, 2013, no catalogue.
George Heard Hamilton. "The Alfred Stieglitz Collection." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), pp. 382–83, fig. 12.
Sidney Geist. Brancusi: The Sculpture and Drawings. New York, 1975, p. 68, ill.
Christel Hollevoet-Force inStieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 19, 242, no. 2, ill. (color).