The Romanian sculptor and his Hungarian muse

Hungarian and Romanian politicians, on both side of the border, often create and thrive on conflicts between the two nations. For example, this year on December 1, Romania will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the creation of modern state. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has already declared in a speech on Romanian soil (!), at Tusványos that “we understand why they (the Romanian Government) think that this is cause for celebration, but we ask them to understand that from our viewpoint there is nothing to celebrate.”

If Mr. Orbán feels that Romania’s National Holiday is not a good cause for celebration, he can do so without public insult. I happen to think that Romanians and Hungarians get along very well when nationalist politicians don’t try to manipulate them. Here is a story to show it.

Constantin Brancusi, (his original Romanian name Constantin Brîncuși) was born in 1876 in a poor Romanian peasant family in a tiny village close to Tirgu Jiu (Zsílvásárhely in Hungarian). He never went to school and from the age of seven worked as a herdsman, watching the family’s flock in the Carpathian Mountains. Even as a child he was a master carver of wood. Later Brancusi became one the most influential sculptors of the 20th-century. He is called the patriarch of modern sculpture, the father of Modernism.

The 20-year-old wood carver first travelled to Vienna, later to Munich and in 1904 he walked to France. The artist never returned to Romania, living the rest if his life in Paris where he died in 1957.

Mlle Pogany at the Guggenheim

Brancusi loved to cook, and in his studio he often played the violin and sang Romanian folk songs to his friends: Picasso, Ezra Pound, Apollinaire, Henri Rousseau, Erik Satie, Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger and Ionesco. His sculptures slowly attracted attention and later his acceptance and artistic influence grew.

In 1910 he met a Hungarian painter Ms. Margit Pogány in Paris. She was 31 and he was 34. Pogány sat in as a model: “I posed for him several times. Each time I posed he made a new version of the statue and every time I asked him to keep it as the final version but he started laughing and threw it down into a corner and started a new one to my great disappointment.”

Brancusi with Margit Pogány

They had a passionate romantic relationship and wrote many letters after Pogány returned to Budapest where she became a noted painter on her own. In one of her letters Pogány wrote: “All the time I think about you and the tenderness and how you took care of me. I would have liked to give you as much joy as you gave me.”

Pogány survived World War II in Budapest and in 1948 she left the country. She died in Camberwell, Australia in 1964.

Brancusi’s groundbreaking series of portrait sculptures called Mademoiselle Pogany became an art sensation and today the sculptures are art history. Watch the attached MoMa video about Brancusi’s Mademoiselle Pogany.

György Lázár


  1. Tnx for this uplifting piece on a success story.

  2. Avatar Peter Sandor says:

    You just rejoice – and be merry (together w half-wit Medgyesi) on Dec. 1 – I will wipe a tear from my eyes again.

    Your Orban bashing seems a bit one-sided in light of the exceedingly ‘friendly’ gestures of Klaus Johannis displayed in his centennial fervor.
    Your piece on Marcusi would have been enjoyable but for your compulsive jibes.

  3. Forgive me for saying this, but you have no clue about life for ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania. You demonstrated your ignorance in this regards in your last article where you criticized the Hungarian government for calling the Szekely Hungarians “magyar”, even though in the last census about 600,000 of them called themselves such, while only about 1,000 of them declared themselves to be “szekely”. In effect you sided with Romanian extremists on that one, by picking up one of their cherished attack lines.

    In this article, making comments such as “I happen to think that Romanians and Hungarians get along very well when nationalist politicians don’t try to manipulate them”, you betray a great deal of ignorance as well. Ethnic Hungarians face a great deal of hostility regardless of what the Hungarian government does. I don’t think Romanians were any less hostile towards Hungarians when Gyurcsany who was outright hostile towards them was in charge. That hostility is bred into them in schools, through propaganda movies, media distortions, and so on. It is a hostility that the French were betting on 100 years ago when they aimed to create post-WW1 borders in the region in a fashion which would make it easy to rally most nations against Germany, by using the Hungarians as a rally point, given that they figured Germans & Hungarians are natural allies. Please do us all a favor and do not write on topics you are completely ignorant about.

  4. Just why is it forbidden by HFP to comment on the Romanian wood0carver’s story and his Hungarian lover ?
    Or is it just because of my user-name?
    It seems that more comments eliminated from Bendeguz, than published.
    Without my comments ever violating the basic rule of posting here.
    It can only be personal. Hmmm?

    • „It seems that more comments eliminated from Bendeguz, than published.“ holy shit … “It seems”? Why don´t you write only muh or ia or buäh that makes more sense.

  5. Bendeguz,
    HFP does a public service by dropping your drivel into the can.

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