Brâncuşi Monumental Ensemble of Târgu Jiu is a creative masterpiece of modernism located in the city of Târgu Jiu, on the banks of the River Jiu, in Romania’s southern sub-Carpathians. The monumental complex, erected between 1937 and 1938, represents a turning point in the history of modern art, in particular of modern monumental sculpture and public art.
It is the seminal creation and the sole large-scale public work of Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuși who, instead of placing the monument in the city, ‘placed the city as a functional element in the centre of the monument’. It is dedicated to the supreme sacrifice of Romanian soldiers, police and ordinary citizens who died defending the city of Târgu Jiu during World War I. The designed commemorative landscape is aligned in a 1,500m–long conceptual axis which in the most part is tangibly represented by the Avenue of Heroes, punctuated in its median sector by the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. The ensemble includes the Table of Silence, the Gate of the Kiss and the Benches, and the cubed hourglass seats of the AIIey of Chairs – all located in the Constantin Brâncuși Park – and the Endless Column in the Park of the Column.
The Ensemble demonstrates a perfect fusion between the disciplines of sculpture, architecture, engineering and environmental and urban planning; a fundamental balance that has guided subsequent great works by artists, architects and engineers.
Brâncuşi Monumental Ensemble of Târgu Jiu, created in 1937-1938, is a World War I memorial, a tribute to the heroes – soldiers, police, scouts and civilians – fallen on 14 October 1916, during the Battle on the River Jiu, defending the city against a German offensive. The National Women's League of Gorj, led by Arethia Tătărescu, wife of the Prime Minister of Romania, had the initiative to raise a memorial dedicated to this important moment of local and national significance and to entrust its realization to the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brâncuşi, native of Gorj, at that time living in Paris and worldwide acclaimed. The great artist accepted this invitation with enthusiasm, because he felt prepared to create, at his artistic maturity, in his country, his first (and last) outdoor sculptural ensemble.
At the initiative of that same organization, the municipality had to decide on important works of urban planning through which the memorial would be emphasized. As a result, a long straight boulevard was opened, named on September 13, 1937 The Avenue of Heroes. The boulevard crosses the city diametrically, being perpendicular to the bank of the River Jiu - the place of the Heroes' sacrifice. The avenue connects the Constantin Brâncuși Park, that contains the stone sculptural elements of the Brâncuşi Monumental Ensemble - Table of Silence, Gate of the Kiss, Benches and AIley of Chairs - to the Park of the Column that hosts the iconic metal Endless Column. This processional route is punctuated by the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul which it passes on both sides.
A quintessential work of Constantin Brâncuşi, the Endless Column represents an austere, abstract and intensely modern architectural sculpture, perfectly balanced, gathering ideal proportions and engineering boldness. The major visual impact of the monument is given by its dynamics of successive impressions, depending of the distance and the angle, the time of the day or of the year.
The column is a metal structure with an extremely pronounced verticality, conferred by its height reaching almost 30 metres, the footprint measuring only 0.81 square metres. The verticality of the column is emphasized by its placement at the highest point of the city, a wide surrounding space granting it a low skyline.
The column is composed of 15 identical, superposed octahedral modules, as well as 2 semi-modules (at the base and at the summit). The elements of the column are made of cast iron, being fixed on a central steel pillar. The column is metallized with copper, of yellow-golden colour.
Dedicating the Column to the heroes, Brâncuși originally named it the “Column of the Endless Gratitude”.
Park of the Column
The Park of the Column - containing the Endless Column - was specially designed by the landscape architect Frederic Rebhuhn in the framework of the urban project of 1937. The Park of the Column is located on a promontory of the diluvial terrace of the River Jiu, providing a striking sightline over the axis of the Ensemble. It is laid on an expansive area of neatly kept grass that marks the Column's axiality. The site is the former city's cattle fair. Brâncuşi called it the “Hay Fair” and chose this place as location of the Endless Column, on July 25, 1937. The park is also located in the area of two garrisons of the Romanian Army during World War I.
Avenue of Heroes
Between the Park of the Column and the Constantin Brâncuși Park (on the banks of the River Jiu, the place of the Heroes’ sacrifice), the axis of the Ensemble generates the Avenue of Heroes, a continuous, around 1,500 meters long straight-line processional route with footpath and roadway segments, the result of the urban plan implemented in 1937. It represents the living urban component of the Ensemble and its rectilinear axis of urban and symbolic composition is the exceptional improvement of the town.
Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul
The processional route is punctuated by the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. Built in 1747, the church was connected to the theme of the Heroes' glorification shortly after the end of World War I and its reconstruction in monumental proportions was part of the same theme. In the Decision of the Local Council of October 2, 1937 on the creation of the Avenue of Heroes, the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, part of the project, was planned to be "a monumental building", "being aware that, by raising this construction, one greater glory to our gratitude to those who sacrificed themselves for us is offered”. The construction was completed during 1936-1937 under the leadership of Iulius Doppelreiter, chief architect of the city. The consecration of the church took place on 7 November 1937, in the presence of Constantin Brâncuşi, who filmed the event.
Gate of the Kiss
Monumental and yet familiar, the Gate of the Kiss belongs equally to architecture and sculpture. It is the unique work of Brâncuşi whose surfaces are completely covered by the motif of “The Kiss”- a long recurring theme in the artist’s creation. The Gate’s location, intended as a portal at the entrance to the Public Garden (actually – the Constantin Brâncuşi Park) was transferred, at the request of Brâncuşi, deeper, in the garden.
Brâncuşi developed a composition of great magnitude: 40 pairs of lovers (16 on the long sides and 4 on the short sides of the lintel), sitting face to face, knees bent, arms interlaced, faces united in the globes of the eyes, in a continuing frieze. On either side of the two pillars, the motif of the Kiss reappears, in an abstract formula: eyes that look closely, petrified in two immense fused hemispheres.
Of an ancestral spatial composition, the Gate of the Kiss guides one's view to circulate along the Avenue of Heroes.
The stone benches are placed on either side of the Gate of the Kiss (north and south), withdrawn toward the edges of the alley. These are prismatic monoliths, sectioned in "L" shape, made of travertine from Banpotoc and built at the same time as the Gate of the Kiss.
Alley of Chairs
Thirty identical stone “chairs” are arranged in ten groups of three, in rectangular cells, on both sides of the Alley of Chairs - the main pathway of the Constantin Brâncuşi Park - between the Gate of the Kiss and the Table of Silence.
A model of these chairs, carved in wood, is preserved in the sculptor's Studio at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, signed and dated by Brâncuşi in 1928.
Table of Silence
The Table has the crude appearance of two millstones superimposed. This type of table was part of the decor of the Brâncuşi’s Studio in Paris but, at the same time, it evokes the round and low table of the Romanian peasant home.
At this dimension, the Table acquires a symbolic and non-utilitarian value. Placed flat on the earth, near the water where the blood of soldiers and civilians who died in World War I ran, this work gives invitation to meditation and silence.
Constantin Brâncuși Park
The former city's Public Gardens, designed in 1852-1853 on the bank of River Jiu, has offered the urban fashionable context for installing the stone components of the Brâncuși Monumental Ensemble, according to the landscaping plan of architect Friedrich Rebhuhn, in 1937. The main alley, which will become the Alley of Chairs, linking the Gate of the Kiss to the Table of Silence, leaves perpendicularly from Jiu's water to cross the Garden in the middle and to continue into the Avenue of Heroes, until the Endless Column.
The restorations in 1999 - 2004 followed the indications and guidelines of Brâncuși. The ideas that are attributed to him include the tall vegetation around the monuments within the Public Garden and the planting of poplar trees along the Alley of Chairs.
The “water mirror” adjoining Constantin Brâncuşi Park to the west is the result of the River Jiu’s hydro-technical development on the Turceni-Târgu Jiu sector (1991-2000), which led to the creation of a reservoir (9 ha), with piers with promenades.
The old bridge over the River Jiu, witness to the heroic sacrifice in 14 October 1916, was built in 1896 by the Daydé & Pillé French company and inaugurated on July 3, 1897. In 1989, before its 100-year warranty was due to expire it was dismantled due to structural concerns in order to make room for a modern one. Three out of five arches were transported to the north and re-erected to create a pedestrian link between the Constantin Brâncuşi Park and the "Little Island".