A radiant bull

On 27 February 2020, by Anne Doridou-Heim

The clearly-identifiable creature, accompanied by symbols, expresses Le Corbusier's architectural system on paper. A "secret labour" soon to be unveiled.

Le Corbusier (1887-1965), Taureau, 1963, collage of pieces of paper with gouache and Indian ink on pencil strokes, 110x70cm.
Estimate: €60,000/80,000

"Creating architecture is/makes a creature," he wrote in Poème de l'angle droit, in 1955. The world knows Le Corbusier, born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887, as the "father of modern architecture". But in the secrecy of the "workshop of patient searching", as he put it, the architect always felt the flame of the visual artist burning within him and devoted half his day to this "secret labour". He was guided on this path in his early years by his friend and mentor Amédée Ozenfant (1886-1966). In 1918, they founded an artistic movement together: Purism, aimed at going beyond Cubism and returning to a classical order with frontal compositions. From then on Le Corbusier painted ceaselessly, even during the intense architectural turmoil of the 1930s. In 1952, he developed an interest in the bull. As he said, "For twenty years, I have been intuitively leading my figures towards animal forms that foster character," and later described how the idea came to him by chance, when he saw, at 90 degrees, an old Purist drawing that had fallen on the floor. The bull appears as the very symbol of Le Corbusier's cosmogony. He created eighteen different subjects based on this theme, materialised by nineteen large oils and a huge embroidered tapestry, which became the stage curtain for the Bunka Kaikan Theatre in Tokyo. There is also this collage of 1963. At that time, he often experimented with colours when working on a monumental work.

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