Constantin Brâncuși on Stamps

On 23.02.2009, in Paris’ Grand Palais, the Collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé auction took place. Among the items exposed and auctioned, the sculpture Portrait of Madame LR by Constantin Brâncuși (1876-1957) was adjudicated for USD37mil – making it a record price for a sculpture sold at an auction. The sculpture had belonged early on to painter Fernand Léger, but was bought by Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970’s.

This is just one of the examples in which Romanian-born Constantin Brâncuși makes history. Today, modern art would be poorer and less inspired without his input. Today, also, we would look at a much blander art landscape were it not for his use of primordial forms.


Brâncuși’s art is featured on a lot of stamps from various parts of the world. What you can see below is a quite exhaustive selection, at the date of writing the article deemed as complete.


Brazil

Let’s start our journey with Brazil, where a 3-stamp series of 1980 features a stamp depicting the sculpture Miss Pogany by Brâncuși. Additional artwork includes A Glass of Water by Aurélio de Figueiredo and The Laborer by Candido Portinari – all three representing artwork present in the Art Museum of São Paulo.


St. Vincent & the Grenadines

For their Millennium – Sculpture of the 20th Century series, St. Vincent & the Grenadines chose a multitude of defining art pieces ranging from Marcel Duchamp to Louise Bourgeois. Among them, a Brâncuși – his 1919 sculpture Bird in Space (detail below).


Moldavia

Moldavia as well paid tribute to Constantin Brâncuși with a stamp in a 4-stamp series issued in 1998.

Pictured above: Trajan’s Column in Rome; The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (National Museum of Art, Chișinău); The Endless Column (Târgu-Jiu Sculptural Ensemble – containing artwork by Constantin Brâncuși in honor of WWI heroes) and Ștefan cel Mare statue from Chișinău.


France

France was Constantin Brâncuși’s adoptive country for the greater part of his life. He legated all his art to France upon his death, conditioned by a 1:1 replica of his atelier being reconstructed. The atelier was recreated and can be visited even today in the Georges Pompidou Center of Arts in Paris.

It is no wonder then that France decided to issue stamps dedicated to Constantin Brâncuși’s art. This happened in 2006, on his 130th birth anniversary. The stamps are part of a joint issue with Romania (see below) and represent two sculptures, The Sleep and The Sleeping Muse.


The Netherlands

The Netherlands issued in 2008 a minisheet devoted to Vereniging Rembrandt (English: Rembrandt Foundation) – an organization helping museums to acquire art. While not directly connected to the topic of the article, it does include an interesting detail of Constantin Brâncuși: his signature (detail below).


Romania

Brâncuși’s native Romania is by far the largest issuer of Constantin Brâncuși-themed stamps. Sadly, none were issued during his lifetime, with the first ones being issued roughly 10 years following his death.

A first such stamp is issued in 1966, occassioned by the Stamp Day. While Brâncuși is not mentioned by name, his Endless Column makes part of the ensemble.


In 1967, however, he is mentioned by name – with a nice set of stamps being issued at his 10 year memorial.

This is by far my favorite set of stamps inspired by the art of Constantin Brâncuși. I like the quality of detail in the representations of the sculptures, but all the more, I like the engravings in pastel colors that are featured in the background. They are primeval Romanian carvings, marking in a silent nod the tribute paid by Brâncuși to folklore.

Pictured above: The Sleeping Muse; The Gate of the Kiss; The Kiss; Head of a Girl; La Sagesse du Monde; The Endless Column; and Ms. Pogany.


For the centennial of his birth, a new set is issued in 1976.

The set, featuring 3 stamps, includes a small-scale gathering of the architecture of the Architectural Ensemble of Târgu-Jiu (The Endless Column; The Table of Silence, and The Gate of the Kiss), a portrait of Brâncuși himself (actually – the first time his effigy was featured on a stamp), and his sculpture The Prayer.

The portrait stamp is also available with an overprint, having been used for the promotion of the September Philatelic Expo of Bucharest of the same year.


In 1982, for the philatelic exhibition Philexfrance Brâncuși’s image is again used in a minisheet picturing him among work-in-progress sculptures in his Paris atelier.

An overprint issue of the same minisheet was released in 2018, see below.


For its 1993 EUROPA issue dedicated to contemporary art, Romania again chose to feature art by Brâncuși. His sculpture The Beginning of the World is featured next to art of Picasso, but also of the Romanian painters Irimescu or Ciucurencu.


Again for Stamp Day in 2001, an image spread over two stamps featuring artwork from Constantin Brâncuși’s atelier was used. The reason behind the choice of Brâncuși is the coincidence with his 125th birth anniversary.


The singularity of Brâncuși’s Gate of the Kiss was again used to illustrate a stamp issued in 2002 with the occasion of US former president George W. Bush to Bucharest.

Under the heading Uniți vom învinge (English: United we stand), the Statue of Liberty and the pillar of the Gate of the Kiss vie on a backdrop featuring the US and Romanian flags intertwined.


As mentioned before, France and Romania released a joint issue of stamps dedicated to Brâncuși in 2006. Below you can see the Romanian issue (2 stamps + minisheet).


10 years later, in 2016 a new series of stamps is released where Constantin Brâncuși is mentioned as one of the Români geniali (English: Brilliant Romanians).

Pictured above: Constantin Brâncuși (his memorial home of Hobița, Gorj county is featured on the vignette); George Constantinescu; Dumitru Stăniloaie; George Emil Palade; George Enescu; Ana Aslan.


In 2018, the 1982 minisheet issued for Philexfrance’82 is reissued with an overprint and surcharge to mark the centennial of the Endless Column as tribute to the fallen heroes of WWI. Only roughly 4000 such minisheets were overprinted and they were surcharged at 31 Romanian lei (roughly 7EUR nominal value at the date of the issue) – both elements pointing to the fact that this was just a marketing scheme at the expense of collectors.


The latest issue of stamps at the date of writing the article was issued in 2019. The stamps feature elements of an attractive Romania, at least according to the mind behind the set. It features the Romanian Athaeneum of Bucharest; Constantin Brâncuși; the Danube Delta; Henri Coandă; the National Reserve of Retezat, and the Palace of Culture of Iași. The stamp featuring Constantin Brâncuși is a good example of stamp-on-stamp; coiled versions of the 1967 death anniversary series being featured in the background.


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Stamps featured in post: 64; Period: modern & contemporary (1966-2019); Pricing: low; with the exception of the latest Romanian issues with high face values Availability: readily available with the exception of the latest Romanian issues (small printruns).

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