Golden Bird

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Constantin Brâncusi
French, born Romania, 1876–1957

Golden Bird, 1919/20 (base c. 1922)

Bronze, stone, and wood
86 x 11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in. (217.8 x 29.9 x 29.9 cm)
Signed underneath: "C. Brancusi"
Partial gift of The Arts Club of Chicago; restricted gift of various donors; through prior bequest of Arthur Rubloff; through prior restricted gift of William E. Hartmann; through prior gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Mr. and Mrs. Arnold H. Maremont through the Kate Maremont Foundation, Woodruff J. Parker, Mrs. Clive Runnells, Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, and various donors, 1990.88

© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Trained in both folk and academic traditions, Constantin Brâncusi sought his own path for sculpture around 1907. Breaking with the currents of the time, he adopted direct carving, combined different materials for single works, and simplified form in his search for his subjects’ essential characters. His works have profoundly influenced the development of twentieth-century abstraction.

More than any other theme, Brâncusi’s series Bird summarizes his quest for a self-sufficient form. "All my life, I have sought to render the essence of flight," the artist once said. He began the first of twenty-seven Bird sculptures around 1910 and completed the last in the 1940s. He called the earliest variations Maiastra, referring to a bird in Romanian folklore that leads a prince to his princess. In the Art Institute’s Golden Bird, details such as feet, a tail, and an upturned crowing beak are only suggested in an elegant, streamlined silhouette. Brâncusi perched this refined shape on a rough-hewn, geometric base, contrasting the disembodied, light-reflective surface with an earthbound mass. The central polyhedron was cut from the middle of a tree trunk, and its circles (indicating the tree’s age) rotate like a sun, as if radiating light over the bird.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 245.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

New York, Sculptor’s Gallery, Exhibition of Contemporary French Art, March 24–April 10, 1922, cat. 14, as Bird, 1921.

New York, Art Center, Memorial Exhibition of Representative Works Selected from the John Quinn Collection, January 7–30, 1926, p. 12, cat. 85, as Bird, no date.

New York, Wildenstein Gallery, The Exhibition of Tri-National Art: French, British, American, February–March 3, 1926, cat. 146, as The Bird, no date.

New York, Brummer Gallery, Brancusi Exhibition, November 17–December 15, 1926, cat. 20, pl. 20; traveled to Chicago, Arts Club, An Exhibition of Sculpture by Brancusi, January 4–18, 1927, cat. 20, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, Exhibition of the School of Paris: 1910–1918, March 20–April 12, 1929, n.p., cat. 29, as Golden Bird, no date.

Chicago, Arts Club, Exhibition of Modern Sculpture and Drawings by Sculptors, June 2, 1933, n.p., cat. 8 (ill.), as The Golden Bird, no date.

Chicago, Renaissance Society, A Selection of Works by Twentieth-Century Artists, June 20–August 20, 1934, n.p., cat. 3 (ill.), as Flight of Bird, 1919.

Detroit Institute of Arts, Origins of Modern Sculpture, January 22–March 3, 1946, pp. 6–7, as Bird in Flight, no date.

St. Louis, City Art Museum, Four Modern Sculptors: Brancusi, Calder, Lipchitz, Moore, March 20–May 1, 1946, n.p., as Bird in Flight, no date; traveled to Cincinnati Art Museum, October 1–November 15, 1946.

Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fairmount Park Art Association, organizers, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, p. 41, cat. 10, as Golden Bird, 1919; traveled to Chicago, Art Institute, January 22–March 8, 1953.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Constantin Brancusi 1876–1957: A Retrospective Exhibition, September 23–October 30, 1969, pp. 94–95 (ill.), as Golden Bird, 1919; traveled to New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, November 25, 1969–February 15, 1970; Art Institute of Chicago, March 11–April 26, 1970.

Chicago, Arts Club, Portrait of an Era: Rue Winterbotham Carpenter and the Arts Club of Chicago, 1916–1931, September 15–November 1, 1986, n.p., (ill.), cat. 9. as Golden Bird, 1919.

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Constantin Brancusi, April 14-August 21, 1995, pp. 58 (ill.), 62 (ill), 172 (ill.), 173 (ill.), 202 (ill.), 314–315 (ill.), 380 (ill.), cat. 52, figs. 9, 14, as ; traveled to Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 8–December 31, 1995.

Publication History

Pound, Ezra, The Little Review 8 (Autumn 1921), pl. 17 (ill.), pl. 24 (ill.), date/ title not given.

Sculptor’s Gallery, Exhibition of Contemporary French Art exh. cat. (New York: Sculptor’s Gallery, 1922), cat. 14, as Bird, 1921.

Loy, Mina, “Brancusi’s Golden Bird,” The Dial v. LXXIII (July to December, 1922), pp. 507-09 (ill), as The Golden Bird, date not given.

Westheim, Paul, “Bildhauer in Frankreich,” Das Kunstblatt 6, no. 2 (Potsdam, 1922), pp. 54–55, 57 (ill.), as Der Goldene Vogel, date not given.

Einstein, Carl and Paul Westheim, Europa Almanach: Maleri, Literatur, Musik, Architektur, Plastik, Bühne, Film, Mode, Asserdem Nicht Unwichtige Nebenbemerkungen (Potsdam: Gustav Kiepenheuer Publishers, 1925), p. 56 (ill.), as Der heilige Vogel.

Pound, Ezra, “Art Supplement,” This Quarter 1, no. 1 (1925), n.p. (ill.), p. 289, as L’oiseau d’or, 1920.

Einstein, Carl, Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Im Propyläen-Verlag, 1926), pp. 168, 526 (ill.), 569, fig. 526, as Der goldene Vogel, date not given.

Fry, Roger, Catalogue of the Exhibition of Tri-National Art: French, British, American exh. cat. (New York: Wildenstein Galleries, 1926), cat. 146, as The Bird.

Morand, Paul, Brancusi exh. cat. (New York: Brummer Gallery, 1926), n.p. (ill.), cat. 20.

Pach, Walter, Memorial Exhibition of Representative Works Selected from the John Quinn Collection exh. cat. (New York: Art Center, 1926), p. 12, cat. 85, as Bird.

Watson, Forbes, John Quinn 1870–1925 [sic]: Collection of Paintings, Water Colors, Drawings and Sculpture (Huntington, New York: Pidgeon Hill Press, 1926), p. 27, as Bird.

Arts Club of Chicago, An Exhibition of Sculpture by Brancusi exh. cat. (Arts Club, 1927), cat. 20, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, Exhibition of the School of Paris: 1910–1918 (Harvard Society for Contemporary Art, 1929), n.p., cat. 29.

Arts Club of Chicago, Exhibition of Modern Sculpture and Drawings by Sculptors exh. cat. (Arts Club, 1933), n.p., cat. 8 (ill.).

E. W. S., A Selection of Works by Twentieth-Century Artists exh. cat. (Chicago: Renaissance Society, 1934), n.p., cat. 3 (ill.), as Flight of Bird.

Zervos, Christian, Cahiers d’Art 10, nos. 1-4, (Éditions Cahiers d’Art, 1935), n.p. (ill.), title/ date not given.

Valentiner, W. R., Origins of Modern Sculpture exh. cat. (Detroit Institute of Arts, 1946), pp. 6–7, as Bird in Flight.

Paleolog, V. G., Brancusi, 1947, pp. 39, 44.

Ritchie, Andrew Carnduff, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1952), p. 41, cat. 10.

Jianou, Ionel, Constantin Brancusi, 1957, pl. 46.

Jianou, Ionel, Brancusi (New York: Tudor Publishing Co., 1963), pp. 55, 103–105 (ill.), 106, cat. 46 II, as Bird in Space (Golden Bird), 1925.

Geist, Sidney, Brancusi: A Study of the Sculpture (New York: Hacker Art Books, 1968), pp. 69 (ill.), 200, 223–224, cat. 117, fig. 117, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Reid, B. L., The Man from New York: John Quinn and His Friends (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), p. 473, as Bird, date not given.

Geist, Sidney, Constantin Brancusi 1876–1957: A Retrospective Exhibition exh. cat. (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1969), pp. 94–95 (ill.).

Spear, Athena T., Brancusi’s Birds (New York University Press for the College Art Association, 1969), pp. 12–3, 35, 46, 70 (ill.), 71, 115, cat. 8, pl. 13, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Geist, Sidney, “The Birds of Brancusi: A Critique of the Catalog of a Recent Brancusi Monograph,” Artforum 9, no. 3 (November, 1970), pp. 77 (ill.), 79, fig. 8, as

Spear, Athena T., “Letter to the Editor,” The Art Bulletin 52, no. 1 (March, 1970), n.p., no. 8, as Bird, date not given.

Geist, Sidney, Brancusi: The Sculpture and Drawings (Harry N. Abrams, 1975), pp. 91 (ill.), 183, 195, cat. 125, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Brancusi, Constantin, Omagiu lui Brancusi (Sibiu: Rivista Tribuna, 1976), n.p. (ill.), as Pasarea, 1919.

Paleolog, Tretie, De vorba cu Brancusi despre “Calea Sufletelor Eroilor”(Turism: Editura Sport, 1976), p. 31, as Masa Tacerii, date not given.

Paleolog, V. G., Brancusi–Brancusi vol. I (Craiova: Scrisul Romanesc, 1976), pp. 97, 100 (ill.), 102, fig. 47 , as Pasarea de Aur, date not given, as Golden Bird, date not given.

Grigorescu, Dan, Brâncusi (Bucharest: Editura Stiintifica si Enciclopedica, 1977), p. 41.

Zilczer, Judith, “The Noble Buyer:” John Quinn, Patron of the Avant-Garde exh. cat. (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1978), p. 56 (ill.), 151, fig. 43, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Tabart, Marielle, and Isabelle Monod Fontaine, Brancusi photographe (Musée national d'art moderne, 1979), p. 11, figs. 15 (ill), 27 (ill.), as L’oiseau d’or, 1920

Stanculescu, Nina, Brâncusi (Bucharest: Editura Albatros, 1981), n.p. (ill.), as Pasarea de aur, 1919.

Jianu, Ionel, Constantin Brancusi: Vita si opera (Bucharest: Editura stiintifica si enciclopedica, 1983), n.p. (ill.), fig. 46, as Pasarea in vazduh (Pasarea de aur).

Grigorescu, Dan, Brancusi and the Romanian Roots of His Art (Bucharest: Meridiane Publishing House, 1984), pp. 102 (ill.), 107–8, 122, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Tate Gallery, Pound’s Artists: Ezra Pound and the Visual Arts in London, Paris and Italy exh. cat. (London: Tate Gallery, 1985), p. 103 (ill.), as L’Oiseau d’Or, 1919-22.

Arts Club of Chicago, Portrait of an Era: Rue Winterbotham Carpenter and the Arts Club of Chicago, 1916–1931 exh. cat. (Arts Club, 1986), n.p., (ill.), cat. 9.

Hulten, Pontus, Natalia Dumitresco, and Alexandre Istrati, Brancusi (Flammarion, 1986), pp. 106–107, 135, 180, 294 (ill.), cat. 108a, as L’Oiseau d’or, 1919

Varia, Radu, Brancusi (New York: Rizzoli, 1986), pp. 45 (ill.), 222, 232, 233 (ill.), as Golden Bird, 1919.

Bach, Friedrich Teja, Constantin Brancusi: Metamorphosen Plasticher Form (Cologne: Dumont Buchverlag, 1987), pp. 155, 158 (ill.), 340 (ill.), 344 (ill.), 456 (ill.), 457, cat. 155, figs. 224, 369, 379, 380, as Goldener Vogel, 1919.

Mocioi, Ion, Estetica Operei Lui Constantin Brancusi (Craiova: Scrisul Romanesc, 1987), p. 100 (ill.), fig. 45 (S. 240), as Pasare de aur, 1919.

Christiansen, Richard, “$12 million deal keeps sculpture in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune (December 31, 1989), section 1, pp. 1 (ill.), 10.

Christiansen, Richard, “Treasured sculpture saved for city,” Chicago Tribune (December 31, 1989), section 1, pp. 1 (ill.), 10, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Shanes, Eric, Modern Masters Series: Constantin Brancusi (Abbeville Press, 1989), pp. 34, 36 (ill.), 37, fig. 31, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Siewers, Alf, “Institute will get a Brancusi in $12 million Arts Club deal,” Chicago Sun-Times (December 31, 1989), p.4 (ill.), as Golden Bird, date not given.

Artner, Alan G., “Art Institute to place 11 works up for auction,” Chicago Tribune (April 26, 1990), section 15, p, 7, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Geist, Sidney, “Brancusi: The Endless Column,” Museum Studies 16, no. 1 (1990), pp. 71, 72 (ill.), 86, fig. 2.

Bach, Friedrich Teja, Brancusi: Photo Reflexion exh. cat. (Paris: Didier Imbert Fine Art, 1991), pp. 12 (ill.), fig. 4, as L’Oiseau d’or, date not given.

Hetzler, Florence M., ed., Art and Philosophy: Brancusi, The Courage to Love (New York: Peter Lang, 1991), p. 112, as the Golden Bird, “about 1919.”

Arts Club of Chicago, Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Exhibition: 1916–1991 exh. cat. (Arts Club, 1992), p. 72, as Golden Bird, date not given.

Andreotti, Margherita, “Brancusi’s Golden Bird: A New Species of Modern Sculpture,” Museum Studies v. 19, no. 2 (1993), pp. cover (ill.), 134 (ill.), 135-40 (ill.), 141-43 (ill.), 144 (ill.), 145 (ill.), 146-47 (ill.), 148-50 (ill.), 151 (ill.), 152 (ill.), 153 (ill.), 198-203, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Grigorescu, Dan. Brancusi and His Century (Bucharest: Editura Artemis, 1993), pp. 28, 31, pl. 49 (ill.), as Golden Bird, 1919.

Nastase, Maria, “Emotia întâlnirii cu Brâncusi la Chicago,” Cotidianul (August 8, 1994), (ill.), as Pasarea maistra, date not given.

Miller, Sandra, Constantin Brancusi: A Survey of His Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. xviii, 151, 231, pl. 112 (ill.).

Rowell, Margit, Friedrich Teja Bach, and Ann Temkin, Constantin Brancusi: 1876–1957 exh. cat. (Gallimard : Centre Georges Pompidou, 1995), pp. 58 (ill.), 62 (ill), 172 (ill.), 173 (ill.), 202 (ill.), 314–315 (ill.), 380 (ill.), cat. 52, figs. 9, 14. title/ date not given.

Tabart, Marielle, Brancusi: l’inventeur de la sculpture moderne (Gallimard/Centre Georges-Pompidou, 1995), pp. 61 (ill.), 72 (ill.), as L’Oiseau jaune, 1919.

Wood, James N. and Teri J. Edelstein, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), p. 48 (ill.), 158, as Golden Bird, 1919/20.

Danto, Arthur C., The Madonna of the Future: Essays in a Pluralistic Art World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000), pp. 182, 184, as Golden Bird, 1919-20.

Tabart, Marielle, Les carnets de l'atelier Brancusi, Regards historiques: Brancusi et Duchamp (Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2000), p. 37 (ill.), fig. 19, title/date not given.

Wood, James N. and Debra N. Mancoff, Treasures from The Art Institute of Chicago (Hudson Hills Press, 2000), n.p. (ill.), as Golden Bird, 1919/20.

Hinoveanu, Ilarie, Memorialul Brancusi: pasi pe nisipul eternitatii, sau, cazna legamantului cu demiurgul (Craiova: Literatorul, 2001), pp. 20-1, as Golden Bird, date not given.

Tabart, Marielle, Les carnets de l'atelier Brancusi, La série et l’oeuvre unique: L’Oiseau dans l’espace (Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 2001), pp. 8 (ill.), 10, 15 (ill.), 26 (ill.), 27, 42, 47 (ill.), 64, 74, 75 (ill.), 76 (ill.), 101 (ill.), cats. 3–8, 101–105, as L’Oiseau d’or, 1919.

Brancusi, Constantin, La dation Brancusi: dessins et archives exh. cat. (Paris: Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 2003), pp. 132, 144–147, 148, as Golden Bird, 1919.

Varia, Radu, C. Brancusi: Photographe exh. cat. (Galerie Hopkins Custot, 2003), pp. 42–43 (ill.), cat. 18, as L’Oiseau d’or, circa 1921.

Mola, Paola, ed., Brancusi: The White Work exh. cat. (Milan: Skira, 2005), pp. 113 (ill.), 158-9, fig. 63, as The Golden Bird, 1919-21.

Ownership History

John Quinn (died 1924), New York, acquired directly from the artist, by November 24, 1920–1924 [copy of John Quinn’s Art Ledger volume 2 in curatorial file]; by descent to the John Quinn Estate, New York, 1924–January 1927 [Zilczer 1978 and Andreotti 1993]; sold to Arts Club of Chicago, January 1927–1990 [Hulten 1986 and Andreotti 1993]; sold to the Art Institute, 1990.