Le Corbusier: Nomades By Le Corbusier

With a versatile career in architecture, art, and design spanning over five decades, Le Corbusier is regarded as a key figure in the creative facets of 20th-century modernism. Nomades by Le Corbusier reveals his contributions as an artist, presenting sixteen works on paper, one oil work on wood, and the renowned wool tapestry Bonjour Calder from 1958.
Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, Le Corbusier began to paint shortly after moving to Paris in 1917 where he met contemporaries Amédée Ozenfant, Pablo Picasso, and Fernand Léger. Together, Le Corbusier and Ozenfant developed a movement called ‘Purism’ which was promoted in their self-published magazine L'Esprit Nouveau. Departing from Cubism, the movement was largely based on still-lifes and investigated the harmonious balance of color and construction. Some of these early works are presented in this exhibition, including the painting Nature morte, pile d’assiettes, équerre et livre ouvert (1919).

Le Corbusier began to include elements of nature, prominently incorporating the female figure which became almost the exclusive subject of his work in later years. Deux Femmes assises (1936) is a prime example of one of his earlier works depicting women, rendering them as robust figures in improbable scale.

After the war, Le Corbusier experimented with other media such as sculpture, murals, and tapestries, leaving behind ‘Purism’ and delving into a more selfless approach to art making. ‘Main ouverte’ became a recurring theme in his painting during this period, an open hand that symbolizes the message of giving and receiving. This was ultimately realized as a monumental sculpture for the city of Chandigarh in India, a dream project built 20 years after his death. Standing 26 meters high, the wind-activated, rotating metal sculpture is a testament to peace and prosperity, set amidst a backdrop of the Himalayas.

From 1952 he created a series of works called ‘Taureau’ a pictorial group of works depicting bulls that investigated mysticism and spirituality. This subject becomes the new icon of his work, replacing women. He wrote: “…And step by step, thirty years after, my mind occupied with other things and, with the possibility of using human figures to create a "bestiary", were born the successive deformations. And one day the discovery of a bull on my canvases appeared entirely beyond my control. There followed the development of the theme itself (the Bulls VIII to XIII approximately), and finally a change of sensibility with regard to the theme and a new distribution of the elements of the painting.”

(Source: Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.415-16, reproduced p.415)

“The great richness of Le Corbusier’s pictorial work resides in the diversity that it takes on over the ages. It is born from the alchemy that the architect creates between a constantly reworked theme…Like all artists from his time, Le Corbusier benefited from an exceptional knowledge of classical culture, not only artistic but also mathematical, spiritual, and symbolic. Major exhibitions from recent years that show his paintings have enabled us to discover that beyond the occasional but undeniable influences from the great figures of the century whom he encountered such as Picasso, Léger, Matisse, or Miró, Le Corbusier is a cerebral painter, sometimes abstruse but always brilliant, who produced a very demanding and extremely coherent, yet nevertheless a completely personal work.” – Eric Mouchet, Expert on Le Corbusier
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