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A man of many talents and a consummate master in various disciplines, Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier, was a famous Swiss-French architect, but also painter and devoted to various other artistic forms. He received significant recognition for his works, even eventually becoming the Architectural Advisor for the construction of an entire city in India. Even though these accolades meant little to the man, and even though he preferred a solitary life, the world remembers his contributions, and he will always be mentioned in the architectural and artistic worlds.
Immediately, Le Corbusier was attracted to the visual arts and studied at the La-Chaux-de-Fonds Art School under Charles L’Eplattenier, who, along with René Chapallaz heavily influenced the young artist, and directly inspired his earliest house designs.
He frequently traveled around Europe as a child and in September of 1907, he made his first trip outside of Switzerland, to Italy. There, Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier would stay until winter, where he moved to Vienna and would eventually meet Gustav Klimt and Josef Hoffman. He found work in 1908 when he traveled to Paris in the office of Auguste Perret, the French pioneer of reinforced Concrete. This is where he began to develop most of his ideas about architecture and informing his viewpoint forever onwards.
This time was a fantastic learning experience for Le Corbusier, and from then onto 1911, when he worked near Berlin under Peter Behrens, he cultivated his idiosyncratic style. During this time, he visited the Charterhouse of the Valley of Ema which would influence his architectural philosophy profoundly for the rest of his life. He afterward believed that everyone should be able to live as peacefully and beautifully as all the monks in their sanctuaries in the Charterhouse.
During World War 1, Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier taught at his old school in his hometown and did not return to Paris until the end of the war. He worked on various theoretical architectural studies using techniques he had developed in his career, and among these projects was plans for the Dom-Ino House which proposed an open floor plan of concrete slabs supported by thin, reinforced concrete columns around the edges.
In 1920, Le Corbusier finally adopted his famous pseudonym while creating the “Purist” artistic movement after dissatisfaction with the Cubist movement. He and painter Amédée Ozenfant worked together on a manifesto called Apres le Cubisme and later released a publication called L’Esprit Nouveau which was a journal with decidedly Purist sensibilities. The name change was a very calculated one, as it represented his belief that anyone could reinvent themselves, and he wanted to create a persona that could separate his critical, written works with his work as a painter and architect.
Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier would go on to write article after article about how a new architecture was essential to the success of modern and future cultures, and he eventually became famous (and infamous) for his work on the concept he called The Radiant City.
This city was a utopia in concept: Le Corbusier was interested in abandoning the class-based stratification of a typical, modern city and instead envisioned a city where, for example, housing was now assigned according to family size and not economic position. This idyllic vision of a city served as a blueprint for social reform, which La Corbusier would later use and incorporate into his Athens Charter of 1933.
It was his dream to “unite man within a well-ordered environment,” and the mathematical precision of his vision lent credence to this idea. It was a linear city based upon the abstraction of a human body with a head, spine, arms, and legs. This approach incorporated all the aspects Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier thought were important to a well-ordered and functioning city: high-rise housing blocks, free circulation and abundant green spaces, which he had proposed in his earlier writings.
Although not immediately popular, for, among other reasons, a “lack of human scale and connection to its surroundings,” and was, according to Lewis Mumford, “buildings in a parking lot.”
Criticisms such as these never really dissuaded Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier from his mission, and he eventually ascended to the position of the chief architect in charge of creating the Union Territory Chandigarh in India. This city, to this day, remains one of the most impressive and prosperous cities in India.
Le Corbusier’s eventual death had a strong impact on the cultural and political worlds of his time. He went for a swim in the Mediterranean, where his body was soon after found by fellow bathers, and was pronounced dead at 11 am on August 27, 1965.
• While he married fashion model Yvonne Gallis, he maintained a secret, long-term affair with the Swedish-American heiress, Marguerite Tjader Harris.
• He met the famous Jazz singer and actress Josephine Baker on an ocean liner to Europe from South America and asked her if he could draw nude sketches of her – she accepted.
• He was famous for coining the phrase “Architecture or Revolution,” which came from his belief that efficient, industrialized architecture was one of the only ways in which to avoid the evils of class-based revolution.
• Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier adopted his nom de plume after publishing a manifesto called “Apres le Cubisme.” Although having been a Cubist painter for much of his lie, he felt that the movement had become too romantic, and dedicated himself to Purism.
• His design philosophy was highly mathematical and inspired by concepts used by Leonardo da Vinci, such as the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence.
Dedicated to providing better living conditions to impoverished cities, Charles-Edouard Le Corbusier was a brilliant urban planner as well as architect, designer, painter and writer. Truly a modern Renaissance man, Le Corbusier established himself thoroughly in various areas of creation and dominated them all with his signature style and elegance. Musart is delighted to exhibit creations inspired by the man for all the contributions he made not only to practical aspects such as urban planning and architecture, but also his artistic contributions, most notably, to Purism.