Le Corbusier Artwork With Highest Auction Prices

May 17, 2020

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!

  Editors’ Tip: Le Corbusier: Lessons in Modernism

Le Corbusier saw himself as much a visual artist as an architect. Yet his work as an accomplished painter and sculptor has only recently begun to be fully understood and appreciated. Sardinian sculptor Costantino Nivola met Le Corbusier in 1946 in New York City. “Corbu” was collaborating with Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer on the United Nations Headquarters, while Nivola had been living there in exile since 1939. Their encounter marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship. The architect would come to share the artist’s Greenwich Village studio while working on the United Nations Headquarters, and he also created two murals in the kitchen of Nivola’s East Hampton home in the 1950s. Over time, Nivola collected six paintings, six sculptures, and some three hundred drawings by his friend. Today, these paintings, sculptures, and drawings are held in various galleries and museums across Europe and the Americas. Le Corbusier: Lessons in Modernism tells the story for the first time of this remarkable collection, exploring its significance in the evolution of Le Corbusier’s visual art and its impact on the reception of his art in the United States.

Featured images:  Le Corbusier, via forward.com; Le Corbusier, via decozine.be; Le Corbusier, via archtizer.com

Arabesques Animees Et Chien, 1932

In the work Arabesques Animees Et Chien, Le Corbusier combines geometric angles with shifting forms of humans and animals. The bold figure of the man is rendered in red and blue, while the woman at left exists in a freer pane within the composition. Rendered in cool tones of gray, the insensate objects of the stringed musical instruments appear nearly as dynamic as the human forms against which they are thrust. The composition also features a dog who bears witness to the surrounding disorderly world.

The work was sold at Sotheby's New York on November 12th, 2019 during their Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale for $1,820,000.

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Mains Croisees Sur La Tete, 1940

An important and highly unique work that marked a new direction in the artist’s plastic oeuvre, Mains Croisees Sur La Tete presents a glorious kaleidoscopic array of bright, radiant colours in the middle of which a heavily stylised mask-like face emerges. In this work, the artist explored both the physiognomy of the human face as well as the complex psychological nuances that lay behind his conception of the human form.

The work was sold on June 27th, 2017 at Christie’s London during their Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale for $1,843,347.

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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.

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Deux Femmes A La Draperie Rouge, 1935

Around 1930, the female figure became the central subject of Le Corbusier's paintings, as evidenced by the present work Deux femmes à la draperie rouge. The work reveals his continuous fascination with forms and their spatial relationships. Two steely, grey-blue human forms are intertwined and juxtaposed with the bright, vivid primary-coloured background.

The work was sold on May 16th, 2017 at Sotheby's New York during their Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale for $2,172,500.

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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.

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Deux Figures Au Tronc Darbre Jaune, 1937

Created on a monumental scale, Deux figures au tronc d’arbre jaune features two abstracted nude female figures, deftly constructed from a combination of flat planes of primary colours and intersecting biomorphic and geometric lines. These figures are locked into their setting with horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the composition. In this particular period, the female nude was the artist’s favoured motif.

The work was sold on February 27th, 2019 at Christie's London during their Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale for $3,474,369.

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Femme grise, homme rouge et os devant une porte, 1931

Produced during a period of intensive experimentation in his painting, Femme grise, homme rouge et os devant une porte features two monumental figures, the man and woman of the title, with their forms appearing to almost melt into one another. Alongside them is a fragmented bone, one of the artist’s so-called objets à réaction poétique (objects with poetic effect). The inclusion of both this natural, found object and the human figure reflects the increased importance of nature in Le Corbusier’s art at this time.

The work was sold on February 28th, 2017 at Christie's London during their Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale for $3,569,958.

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Accordéon, carafe et cafetière, 1926

A remarkable example of the growing complexity of Le Corbusier’s pictorial vocabulary during the latter half of the 1920s, Accordéon, carafe et cafetière combines many of the key principles which defined his vision. Revealing his dynamic new approach to still-life, it features a group of familiar, everyday objects, from coffee-pots to carafes, wine glasses to smoking pipes. The inclusion of the accordion in the present composition adds new dynamism to the arrangement, as it stretches along the lower edge of the table.

This work was sold at Christie's London on February 28th, 2017 during their Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale for $3,990,395.

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Nature morte et figure, 1944

A monumental work, Nature morte et figure was painted over a number of years, 1927, 1938, and completed in 1944. It features a kaleidoscopic array of the key themes and motifs that had dominated Le Corbusier’s plastic oeuvre. Characterized by bold colours and forms, it features a single dark outline that denotes the form of a large bottle, alongside the statuesque figure of a woman similarly fills the entire height of the canvas. The still-life and the human figure, two primary components of Le Corbusier’s prolific pictorial oeuvre, are surrounded by a plethora of other forms, shapes and facets of colour.

The work was sold at Christie’s London on February 28th, 2017 during their Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale for $4,130,541.

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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.

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