The First Cry was created at a time when Brancusi was living and working in Paris, and had progressed largely to working in wood. Rather than modelling in clay and casting in metal, during this phase of his artistic career, Brancusi worked almost exclusively by carving raw material, yet The First Cry is an exception. There is some evidence to suggest that this work was a bronze cast of a very early experimental piece, entitled The First Step. Brancusi would come to love and celebrate working with wood as his medium, enjoying its practicality, and the fact that bases for sculptures could be used interchangeably with furniture. Originally exhibited on a complex carved wooden plinth with an almost religious feel, The First Cry, as its name intimates, is strongly resonant with all things primitive.
The way the sculpture is a head face down, almost resembling an egg, is indicative of its lowly or humble origins. The deep crease of one eyebrow, the rudimentary slash of the nose, the open inverted gash of the mouth, make it apparent that what we are looking at here is a human face. The mouth could be agape in wordless wonder on viewing, as though through new eyes, the world around it. Brancusi prided himself on capturing not the object itself in all its lines, details and symmetry, but the essence of a thing. This, he argued, was more real than realism.
It may be that The First Cry conveys the essence of mankind as he is unadorned, a tiny and sometimes crude thing, gazing open-mouthed and childlike with wonder on the world around them. If taken literally, this first cry could be the first noise a man made, and in this case it seems significant that the sculpture lays on its side, resembling an egg in a basket. Certainly, The First Cry is an evocative depiction of the essence of newness, rawness.
Brancusi was of Romanian extraction, and it may well be that herein lay his love of working with wood, a traditional material used in carving and furniture alike. There are discernible cultural influences echoing throughout the canon of Brancusi's work. It just might not be too fanciful to speculate that in presenting a human head like it is an egg or some new life offered up, Brancusi was thinking of the world famed tradition of painting and hollowing out eggs as an offering, around Easter time. The wood pedestal he crafted to depict the sculpture also adumbrates this religious idea.