Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 1887 - Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France, 1965), lives through the periods of Cubism, Constructivism, Neo-plasticism and the Bahaus. Inspired by all of them, he takes up a purist stance that advocates the harmonious relationship and expressive spontaneity in simple and refined forms.
Practising the idea of Gesämtkunstwerk, a total work of art, he stands out for not only his enormous contribution to the field of architecture, but also the relevant works he produces as designer, painter, sculptor and drawer; in fact, it has been said that his exploration of painting aids his line of investigation in architecture, and vice versa.
His beginnings as a watch designer for the family business bring him into contact with the Swiss bourgeois, who he constructs his firsts buildings for. On a trip around the Mediterranean he discovers classical architecture - its simplicity and polychromy, and it is in Paris, where he arrives in 1917, that he paints his first piece La Cheminée (1918). His friendship with Amédée Ozenfant prompts their collaboration in writing Après le Cubisme (1918), considered the founding manifesto of Purist Painting.
The exhibition held in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is a commemoration of the hundred years since the birth of Le Corbusier and displays the different sides of the artist, from architecture, furniture and tapestry design to his extensive artworks.
As a painter, Le Corbusier works with the line, drawing numerous preliminary sketches, and in his work form dominates colour, which is meditated upon and added afterwards. From the Thirties onwards until his death he develops what he calls “poetic reaction”, a source of inspiration through found objects - pebbles, pine cones, shells and other natural objects are used as catalysts of ideas that he puts into practice in his work.
Another of the themes running through his oeuvre from 1928 is the depiction of women. His drawings of women, over two thirds of which are erotic, dominate a large part of his drawings and paintings, and his portrayal of their curved and carefree forms is in sharp contrast to the serious nature of his architecture, predominated by lines and straight angles. In one way or another, this duality underpins all of his work, combining rigour and order with expressive freedom and playfulness.
Manifest in the exhibition received by the Museo Reina Sofía are his impeccably formed and colourful pictures and sculptures. Furthermore, the scale models displayed reveal his interest in proportions and geometry, which, at the end of the Fifties and beginning of the Sixties, prompt him to explore and rediscover Modulor - a study of humanist harmony that allows the world of forms to be adapted to human scale - as he employs it throughout his work. Only one of his most celebrated pieces, the chapel of Ronchamp, operates outside this system.
A large part of the works in the exhibition come from the compendium of the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris - forty-six oil paintings, twenty-two polychrome wooden sculptures and forty-nine drawings, three of them collages. These are also accompanied by more than one hundred and twenty architectural drawings and a series of scale models, tapestries, furniture, personal photos and correspondence. All of the above is displayed together in the exhibition spaces, without distinguishing between disciplines, thus allowing a general vision of his influence and a deeper look at his vast body of work.