September 4, 2007
A seminal figure in the annals of architecture, Le Corbusier (1887–1965) was also an accomplished painter, sculptor, draftsman, writer, urban planner, and designer of automobiles, tapestries, and furniture. Given his profuse productivity, it is difficult to fit him into a genre or produce a comprehensive exhibition of his works. And yet, celebrating the 120th anniversary of his birth, “Le Corbusier: Art and Architecture—A Life of Creativity” creates a skillfully composed picture of this enigmatic personality. Along with about 250 works, the show includes full-scale walk-in room reproductions from several of his buildings, among them his painting studio on the rue Nungesser-et-Coli in Paris, a two-story apartment from his Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles, and a small wooden hut he built for himself in the south of France, which he called Le Petite Cabanon.
Although Le Corbusier is best known for his architecture, it was only an afternoon avocation. He spent his mornings painting and was a pioneer of Purism, the school of painting that revered unadorned simplicity. Le Corbusier set a new standard of beauty with his still lifes of bottles, cups, and musical instruments. An early work titled Nature morte rouge au violon (Red Still Life with Violin), 1920, conveys his love of vivid color and geometric line. Precisely organized, the objects, rendered in rich shades of reddish brown, form horizontal and vertical lines that create a captivatingly simple yet multilayered composition, so like his iconic buildings.
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