From the 1920s to the 1940s, the theme of a bird in flight preoccupied Brancusi. He concentrated on the animals’ movement, rather than their physical attributes. In Bird in Space, the sculptor eliminated wings and feathers, elongated the swell of the body, and reduced the head and beak to a slanted oval plane. Balanced on a slender conical footing, the figure’s upward thrust appears unfettered. This sculpture is part of a series that includes seven marble sculptures and nine bronze casts.
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Title:Bird in Space
Artist:Constantin Brancusi (French (born Romania), Hobita 1876–1957 Paris)
John Quinn, New York (1923–d. 1924; purchased from the artist in December 1923 for Fr 25,000; his estate, 1924–26; sold in 1926 through Brummer Gallery, New York to Duchamp and Roché); Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché (1926; sold in 1926, for $1,000, to Levy); Edgar A. Levy, New York (1926–40; sold in 1940 to Matisse); [Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, 1940–42; sold on December 9, 1942 to Marx]; Samuel and Florene Marx, Chicago (1942–his d. 1964); Florene May Marx, later Mrs. Wolfgang Schoenborn, New York (1964–d. 1995; her bequest to MMA)
New York. Brummer Gallery. "Brancusi," November 17–December 15, 1926, no. 26.
New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Landmarks in Modern Art," December 30, 1940–January 25, 1941, unnumbered cat. (as "Bird in Flight," from the John Quinn Collection).
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957," April 14–August 21, 1995, no. 68 (anonymous loan).
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957," October 8–December 31, 1995, no. 68.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Florene M. Schoenborn Bequest: 12 Artists of the School of Paris," February 11–May 4, 1997, extended to August 31, 1997, brochure no. 1.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.
Constantin Brancusi. Letter to John Quinn. December 17, 1923 [published in Ref. Lemny 2003, p. 154].
"John Quinn's Collection." Art News 22 (August 16, 1924), p. 4.
John Quinn. Letter to Henri-Pierre Roché. January 21, 1924 [excerpt published in Ref. Lemny 2003, p. 159], confirms shipment of this work has arrived.
Constantin Brancusi. "Forty-One Reproductions." This Quarter 1, no. 1 (1925), ill. n.p. (in the artist's studio), published with the caption "Le coq (projet pour bronze)" [identified by Ref. Tabart et al. 2001].
John Quinn, 1870–1925: Collection of Paintings, Water Colors, Drawings & Sculpture. Huntington, N.Y., 1926, p. 27, ill. p. 189, as "The Bird".
"Many Brancusis Sold at Brummer's." Art News 25 (December 11, 1926), p. 3.
"Current Exhibitions." Art News 25 (November 27, 1926), p. 8.
Marcel Duchamp. Letter and cable to Brancusi. December 12 and 19, 1926 [published in Refs. Lemny 2003, p. 118 and Lemny 2017, pp. 38–39; digitized in Duchamp Research Portal: duchamparchives.org], notes the sale of this work to Edgar A. Levy.
Edward Alden Jewell. "French Moderns Among Art Shows: 'Landmarks' Are Put on Display in an Exhibition Given at the Pierre Matisse Gallery." New York Times (December 31, 1940), p. 13.
Edward Alden Jewell. "In the Realm of Art: A Glance Back and a Look About. Exhibitions." New York Times (January 5, 1941), p. X9.
Carola Giedion-Welcker. Constantin Brancusi. New York, 1959, p. 201, fig. 4 (in the artist's studio), calls it "Bird," dates it 1922, and lists it as 22.8 in. high [identified as this work by Refs. Jianou 1963 and Spear 1969; see Ref. Tabart and Monod-Fontaine 1979, pl. 29].
Ionel Jianou. Brancusi. New York, 1963, pp. 55, 70–71, 103–4, no. IV, erroneously lists it in the collection of Mrs. C.C. Ramsay, New York.
Mircea Deac. Constantin Brâncuşi. Bucharest, 1966, p. 168, erroneously lists it in the C.C. Ramsay, New York collection.
Sidney Geist. "Letters to the Editor." Art Bulletin 48 (September–December 1966), p. 463.
Athena T. Spear. Brancusi's Birds. New York, 1969, unpaginated, no. 12, pl. 17.
Athena T. Spear. "Letters to the Editor." Art Bulletin 52 (March 1970), p. 111.
Sidney Geist. "The Birds: A Critique of the Catalog of a Recent Brancusi Monograph." Artforum 9 (November 1970), pp. 77–80, ill.
Julien Levy. Memoir of an Art Gallery. New York, 1977, pp. 18–19, states that he persuaded his father [Edgar A. Levy] to purchase this work for $1,000.
Judith Zilczer. "The Noble Buyer:" John Quinn, Patron of the Avant-Garde. Exh. cat., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, 1978, p. 152.
Marielle Tabart and Isabelle Monod-Fontaine. Brancusi Photographer. New York, 1979, pp. 12, 119, pls. 28, 29 (in the artist's studio).
Sidney Geist. Brancusi: A Study of the Sculpture. (1st ed., 1968). New York, 1983, pp. 85–86, 88, 94–96, 129–30, 155, 226, 270, no. 146, ill. p. 85.
Sidney Geist. "Brancusi's 'Bird in Space': A Psychological Reading." Source: Notes in the History of Art 3 (Spring 1984), pp. 24, 27–31, discusses the "Bird in Space" series.
Pontus Hulten, Natalia Dumitresco, and Alexandre Istrati. Brancusi. New York, 1987, p. 300, no. 137, ill. pp. 155 (in the artist's studio), 300.
Friedrich Teja Bach. Constantin Brancusi: Metamorphosen Plastischer Form. Cologne, 1987, p. 470, no. 192, ill. (in the artist's studio).
Margherita Andreotti. "Brancusi's 'Golden Bird': A New Species of Modern Sculpture." Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 19, no. 2 (1993), p. 203 n. 59.
Friedrich Teja Bach in Friedrich Teja Bach Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin. Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957. Exh. cat., Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Philadelphia, 1995, pp. 23–24, discusses the "Bird in Space" series.
Ann Temkin in Friedrich Teja Bach Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin. Constantin Brancusi, 1876–1957. Exh. cat., Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Philadelphia, 1995, pp. 59, 61, 202, 222, no. 68, ill. pp. 202 (in the artist's studio, 1923; installation photo, Exh. New York 1926), 203 (color).
Carol Vogel. "32 Works of Art by Masters Left to Met and the Modern." New York Times (November 25, 1996), pp. A1, C12, ill.
Tom Csaszar. "A Contradictory and Uneasy Perfection: A Brancusi Retrospective." Sculpture 15 (January 1996), pp. 28, 30.
Marcia E. Vetrocq. "Re-reading Brancusi: The Philadelphia Story." Art in America 84 (January 1996), p. 123.
William S. Lieberman in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1996–1997." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 55 (Fall 1997), p. 75, ill. (color).
William S. Lieberman. "Donnés au Met." Connaissance des arts no. 539 (May 1997), p. 70, ill. (color).
Grace Glueck. "A Surprise, and Then a Collection." New York Times (February 28, 1997), p. C31, ill.
Jeffrey Kastner. "One Donor, Two Museums." Art News 96 (January 1997), p. 37.
Scarlett and Philippe Reliquet. Henri-Pierre Roché: L'Enchanteur collectionneur. Paris, 1999, pp. 141, 151.
Stella Paul. Twentieth-Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Resource for Educators. New York, 1999, pp. 55–57, ill. and ill. p. 54 (color).
Athena Tacha Spear inL'Oiseau dans l'espace. Exh. cat., Centre Pompidou. Paris, 2001, pp. 28–29, 31–32, 34, 42, ill. no. 108.
Ileana Parvu inL'Oiseau dans l'espace. Exh. cat., Centre Pompidou. Paris, 2001, p. 56, ill. no. 16.
Marielle Tabart et al. L'Oiseau dans l'espace. Exh. cat., Centre Pompidou. Paris, 2001, p. 65, no. 5 (ill.); pp. 72, 77, nos. 13, 14 (ill.); pp. 78–79, nos. 15 (ill. overall and detail), 16 (ill. in Ref. Parvu 2001), 17 (ill.); p. 102, nos.107, 108 (ill. in Ref. Spear 2001), 109 (ill.), catalogue images of this work in the artist's studio.
Doïna Lemny inLa Dation Brancusi: Dessins et archives. Ed. Marielle Tabart and Doïna Lemny. Exh. cat., Centre Pompidou. Paris, 2003, pp. 118, 132, 154, 159.
Holland Cotter. "A Banquet of World Art, 30 Years in the Making." New York Times (October 24, 2008), p. C33.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 405, ill. (color).
Richard Meyer. "Changing Partners: Richard Meyer on 'Reimagining Modernism' at the Met." Artforum 54 (November 2015), p. 144, ill. (color, installation photo).
Roberta Smith. "A Trans-Atlantic View of Modernism." New York Times (January 9, 2015), ill. p. C30 (installation photo).
Doïna Lemny, ed. Correspondance Brancusi Duchamp: Histoire d'une amitié. Paris, 2017, pp. 38–39.
Paul B. Franklin. Brancusi & Duchamp: The Art of Dialogue. Exh. cat., Kasmin. New York, 2018, pp. 138, 148, 153, 160, 259 n. 34, ill. p. 155 (installation photo, Exh. New York 1926).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2019, p. 405, ill. (color).
Mary Ann Caws. Mina Loy: Apology of Genius. London, 2022, p. 159, ill. p. 160 (color).
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