A line of the Le Corbusier Artwork With Highest Auction Prices
When thinking of any Le Corbusier artwork, one has to remember what he wrote in 1948: ‘There is no such thing as a “pure” sculptor, a “pure” painter, or a “pure” architect. The three-dimensional event finds its fulfillment in an artistic whole at the service of poetry… If you want to attribute any importance to my architecture, you need to discover the sources in my painted work, my secret search for aesthetic perfection which I have pursued all my life’. When somebody mentions Le Corbusier, the images of monumental concrete high-rises and lessons about his iconic five principles immediately come to mind. Yet, there is much more about the Swiss-French modernist who has contributed greatly to architecture, urban planning, and design. In addition to being one of the most important architects in history, Le Corbusier was also a painter. Le Corbusier was a key figure when it comes to understanding 20th-century modernity and contemporary living, but many of these ideas were born in his painter’s studio.
Le Corbusier’s work in architecture and urban planning has been widely celebrated and had received critical and commercial acclaim from the very beginnings of his career. Yet, his work as a painter was neglected for many years. In part, the responsibility was his, since he mostly avoided publicly exhibiting his work and regarded it as highly personal and intimate. Still, he was a painter much before he started practicing architecture and drawing was an activity central to any professional work he did. First works that brought him a wide recognition were his Purist still-lives executed after the World War I. Purism was a movement founded by Le Corbusier and the painter Amédée Ozenfant around 1918 as their own variant of Cubism. Since they were critical of what they saw as a decorative trend in Cubism, they advocated a return to clear, precise, ordered forms that expressed the modern machine age. The movement did not have an appreciable following and two painters went separate ways in 1926. From then on, his artistic practice shifted towards a more organic style and he started incorporating curved and irregular forms and human figure became a central subject in his work. He continued painting for the rest of his life.
The diversity of Le Corbusier’s creative practice has made him the universal artist and a true genius of the last century. Besides adorning museum walls, his works today attract collectors from all around the world. Let’s take a look at Le Corbusier artworks that have reached the highest prices at auctions!
Featured images: Le Corbusier, via forward.com; Le Corbusier, via decozine.be; Le Corbusier, via archtizer.com
Table, bouteille et livre, 1926
The piece Table, bouteille et livre from 1926 is a piece from Le Corbusier’s purist period. Purism was Le Courbusier’s and Ozenfant’s version of Cubism and both painters employed its rigid rules in their work. This still life painting shows pure elements placed to reconstruct the organization of it. This piece was sold at Christie’s London in June 2006 for $515,700.
Deux figures et l'echarpe multicolore, 1937
After abandoning purism in the late 1920s, Le Corbusier started to incorporate rounder, organic forms and, more increasingly, human form. His later works from the 1930s still reflect by his preoccupations of form and spatial relationships. In Deux figures et l’echarpe multicolore from 1937 the two figures are placed in a lyrical conjunction of body parts reinforced by the folds of the scarf on the left. He reprised this composition in Deux figures Rio from 1943 and Alma Rio from 1949, something he would often do with his successful subjects. This piece was sold at Christie’s London in June 2007 for $796,300.
Trois bouteilles (bleu), 1928
Several months before creating Trois bouteilles (bleu), Le Corbusier broke off badly with the artist Amédée Ozenfant with whom he had founded the Purism movement. So, this piece was created in a very decisive moment for the artist that he has termed as the ‘period of mourning’. Free from the rigidity of purist rules, Le Corbusier was set out to develop his individualistic style. Displaying both meticulousness and a need for personalization, this piece is key work in his progressive approach. As still life has remained his favorite subject, this piece reflects his investigation into the selection of elements and their compositional organization. This piece was sold at Christie’s Paris in October 2015 for $979,100.
Deux femmes au bord de la mer, 1935
The piece Deux femmes au bord de la mer from 1935 is another piece from the period where he started incorporated human figure into work, especially female one. Reflecting his preoccupation with the relationship between elements in the composition, his work portrays and exploration of movement and form. Overlapping and flowing into one another, these two figures complement each other. Surrounded by semi-abstracted elements, a line of hills and the use of blue colour depict the sea in the title. An interesting three-dimensional object on the left side has already appeared in Tête de femme grise and it might be inspired by the shape of a bone that he has once sketched. This piece was sold at Christie’s London in February 2008 for $966,500.
Taureau VII, 1954
The piece Taureau VII from 1954 is a part of the series that Le Corbusier developed from an upright work A Still Life With a Violin from 1920 of which a photograph was viewed horizontally. Corbusier wrote in a letter from 1958: ‘And step by step, thirty years after, my mind occupied with other things and in particular 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’. This piece was sold at Christie’s Paris in December 2009 for $1,090,000.
Deux femmes, la corde et le chien, 1935
The piece Deux femmes, la corde et le chien from 1935 is another piece from the period when irregular forms replaced the rectangles and cylinders of Le Corbusier’s earlier work. Two female figures are central subjects of the work. In the year this work was created, Le Corbusier travelled to the United States to hold a series of lectures at universities and museums. It is believed that the impressions from New York have inspired him to paint large canvases as this work. The way human forms and inanimate forms are intertwined shows his fascination with spatial relationships. The composition of the piece is dynamic and two figures are emphasized by the coloration of both vivid and steely-blue colours. This piece was sold at Sotheby’s London in June 2005 for $1,450,400.
Annibal Simla, 1951
The piece Annibal Simla from 1951 is characterised by the architectural composition. Since Le Corbusier is here exploring the colour study that is not very typical of him, it is evident that he tried to incorporate Bauhaus premises into this still life work. This influence could be seen in the composition of the work, the picture plane, the overlapping of objects, and the use of colour. This piece was sold at Christie’s London in February 2014 for $1,669,500.
Les deux soeurs, 1938
The piece Les deux soeurs from 1938 reflects Le Corbusier’s interest for the human form, especially the female figure. Similarly to the work Deux femmes au bord de la mer, this piece shows two female figures overlapping and flowing into each other’s space, and the colours are juxtaposed between the vivid and grayish ones. This piece was sold at Christie’s London in February 2016 for $2,053,300.
Femme (3eme recherche), 1962
The partially painted sculpture Femme (3eme recherche) from 1962 is carved from mahogany and it depicts a mystical woman through its assemblage of various forms. Reflecting his fascination with the feminine, heart-shaped motifs dominate one’s perception of the sculpture. The combination of forms and colours such as red and white suggests sensual images of femininity. The colours are also symbolic evoking attributes of womanhood such as purity, innocence, warmth, love and life itself. This piece was sold in May 2015 at Christie’s Zurich for $2,782,800.
Femme rouge et pelote verte, 1932
In this period, Le Corbusier’s works began to be suffused with an overt eroticism that is reminiscent of contemporaneous Surrealist concerns, especially the theme of desire as a central principle. These concerns are apparent in the piece Femme Rouge et Pelote Verte from 1932. The anonymity of female figure’s face and the stylization of her body combine eroticism beauty, reverence and power. In both the preparation drawing and the painting, Le Corbusier accentuates figure’s hands, suggesting touch, the hand of the artist, and contact, and also calls to mind proto-Surrealist artworks. This piece was sold in November 2015 at Phillips New York for $4,645,000.