Groupe Mobile

Groupe Mobile is a term Brancusi attributed to the configurations of sculptures and their bases which he continually re-arranged and photographed in his studio constituting an ongoing visual journal of his work.

Satie, for his part eschewed sonorities, made each note audible, looked back to Greek and Medieval modes of composition. His work is brief and witty, and in this too both Stein and Brancusi resemble him. He and the sculptor were to be joined, after the First World War, in a friendship based on perfect sympathy for each other’s art…
Satie Stein and Brancusi were the strict and elegant extremists of the new spirit. Going beyond primitivism, they sought an art that was fresh, clean and unencumbered

—'Brancusi', Sidney Geist p. 142

Vue d’atelier: L’enfant au monde, groupe mobil 8 Impasse Ronsin, 1917

Vue d’atelier: L’enfant au monde, groupe mobil 8 Impasse Ronsin, 1917

It was a dialectic of simplicity/difficulty as much as that of innocence/experience in relation to the childlike that interested both Brancusi and Satie as a dynamic within their work. For Brancusi, simplicity was a state of being only to be achieved, or arrived at, through the childlike absence of sophistication or self-consciousness. Satie’s piano pieces, which were given strange, childlike titles, were deceptively difficult pieces which could nevertheless be played by an adult and a child alike. He provided sheet music with bizarre directions and annotations, part helpfully poetic, part parodic of their own didactic function.

—from Jon Wood’s ‘When we are no longer children; Brancusi’s wooden sculpture c. 1913-25 in Constantin Brancusi ’ The Essence of Things’, Tate, 2004

The latter version (of Prometheus) was originally purchased by the English pianist Vera Moore who met Brancusi in 1931 through the art critic H.S. Ede. Although rarely discussed by scholars, Vera Moore became close friends with the artist, and in 1934 she gave birth to Brancusi’s sole and illegitimate son, John Moore. Vera Moore liked to keep Prometheus on her piano, perhaps to seek inspiration while she was playing, and Brancusi commended her choice. In light of this context, the child-like head of Prometheus can be read not only as Brancusi’s alter-ego, but also as a representation of his newborn son. The artist actually likened the intimate countenance of the sleeping head with the delicate intimacy of an embryo from which life emerges.

Satie was said to have been inspired by the form of the windows of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris when composing the ‘Ogives’. An ogive is the curve that forms the outline of a pointed gothic arch.

Satie, in Cocteau’s memorable phrase, composed ‘music on which one walks.’

—Mary E. Davis, ‘Erik Satie’, Reaktion Books, 2007, p. 115

As Francis Poulenc so aptly put it Socrate with its ‘limpidity like running water’ marked the ‘beginning of horizontal music that will succeed perpendicular music’

—Mary E. Davis ‘Erik Satie’, Reaktion Books 2007, p.122