Any art history book suggests that the development of modern architecture couldn’t be possible without Le Corbusier. What is often forgotten or it is simply not enough underlined however, is the fact that this celebrated French architect practically started his career as an avant-garde painter.
Naturally, his interest entwined in a multimedia approach was quite typical for the radical artists of the interwar period. In 1918, together with the French painter Amédée Ozenfant, he established a variation of the Cubist movement called Purism based on the explorations of elementary forms, and they run an influential journal called L'Esprit Nouveau.
Truth be told, Le Corbusier’s practice gradually went far beyond the two mentioned disciplines since he was equally active in other fields (as a designer, writer, and renowned urban planner). The legacy of the 20th century visionary of a kind is still observed by the contemporary scholars, art students and art consumers with close attention, so the upcoming exhibition titled The World of Le Corbusier: Collages and Drawings at Maruani Mercier tends to show a less explored aspect of his fruitful oeuvre.
Drawing was a central medium in Le Corbusier's practice that he used not only for expressing his utopian architectural visions but also for delivering purely plastic ideas. The selection of works to be presented with this show will unravel the architect’s visual vocabulary and the dominant themes such as female figures, still lifes, and bulls juxtaposed against the elements of interior and exterior.
From the late 1920s onwards, Le Corbusier devotedly explored color, which remained an important element of his expression that was used to construct the compositions, as well as to determine the planes in complex arrangements. Furthermore, color allowed him to infuse the rigidness of forms with poetry, something that is perhaps best expressed through the images of bulls as principles of masculinity that were contrasted with the female images in a complementary fashion.
Although Le Corbusier initially experimented with visual harmony and synthesis of form, his works from the early 1930s show his interest in the human figure, especially the studies of women (the Femmes period). These works also reflect the architect's fascination with the shapes and forms found in the Islamic culture that he observed closely in Algiers (such as the arched doorways of Algiers, and the traditional musical instruments like the cymbalum). These series are of special relevance since they inspired an entire generation of Modern artists, especially the iconic Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning and his famous Women series of the 1950s.
In brief, this exhibition will additionally contribute to a better understanding on why Le Corbusier is such an intriguing practitioner whose visionary landscapes expressed through the painting, drawing, architecture and other disciplines still dazzle and inspire.
The World of Le Corbusier: Collages and Drawings will be on display at Maruani Mercier in Brussels from 16 January until 21 March 2020.
Featured image: Le Corbusier - Taureau (Taurus), 1963. Casein on paper 44 x 56 cm | 17 1/3 x 22 in framed: 66.2 x 78.2 x 8 cm | 26 x 30 3/4 x 3. All images courtesy Maruani Mercier.