Le Corbusier (1887-1965)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more LE CORBUSIER, IMPORTANT WORKS FROM THE HEIDI WEBER MUSEUM COLLECTION‘I had only one wish: to help Le Corbusier get the recognition for his paintings and sculptures which he deserved. His paintings and sculptures should become world renowned… His brilliant work should be made available to people from all levels of society’ (Heidi Weber, Le Corbusier – The Artist: Works from the Heidi Weber Collection, Zurich & Montreal, 1988, n.p.) ‘You know, Madame Weber, not even one of my best friends would have done for me what you do. You are the only person who has done anything for me’ (Heidi Weber: Anecdotes, no. 7, www.centerlecorbusier.com/en/anekdoten.html [accessed 21st December 2016]) Le Corbusier was one of the most influential architects of the Twentieth Century. From France and Belgium to India, Japan, Brazil and the United States, his innovative architecture can be found across the globe, and the influence of his pioneering theories on urban planning continues to be felt today. Yet, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, as he was known before he adopted the pseudonym Le Corbusier in 1920, was also a very prolific plastic artist, a painter, draughtsman and sculptor who sought above all to attain the application of aesthetic perfection throughout his career. Throughout his life, he painted or sketched every day. Educated as an engraver at the art school of La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland he knew how to draw with near perfect perspective his architectural and three-dimensional concepts, which then were developed into plans by his assistants. Many of them subsequently became famous architects in their own right after practising in his studio.‘People only know me as an architect’, he once explained, ‘yet it is through my painting that I’ve arrived at architecture’ (Le Corbusier, quoted in exh. cat., Le Corbusier: Painter and Architect, Aalborg, 1995, p. 125). For Le Corbusier, art and architecture should work in perfect synthesis, existing so as to attain a pure form of poetry. ‘The origin of my research’, he wrote, ‘has its secret in the continuous practice of (disinterested) plastic art. This is the source of my free spirit, and here you can find the possibilities for my creative evolution. Tapestries, drawings, paintings, sculptures, books, houses and town plans are, as far as I am personally concerned, one and a same manifesto of an inspiring harmony right in the middle of a new industrialised society’ (Le Corbusier, quoted in A. Ziehr, ‘The Heidi Weber Collection’, in op. cit., Zurich, 2008-09, p. 71).As well as the visual arts and architecture, Le Corbusier was also a pioneering designer, creating pieces of furniture, lamps and even a car, many of which – thanks to Heidi Weber – became iconic emblems of modern design. A prolific writer, Le Corbusier left an impressive opus of over 50 books published during his lifetime. His theoretical texts, including the seminal Vers une Architecture of 1923, which is listed today as one of the 100 most important books of the Twentieth Century, are some of the most influential of our time. Painter, architect, designer, theoretician and philosopher, Le Corbusier’s pluralistic practice reimagined how man could live in the modern era. Just as Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man became a defining symbol of the Renaissance, so Le Corbusier’s Modulor figure (the iconic model he created to apply human proportions to the spaces we live in) is considered to be an emblem of the modern era. Occupying a distinct position within the Twentieth Century, Le Corbusier’s influence on the history of modern art and architecture is unique and far-reaching; he changed the way we see the world and how we live within it. Since 1997 Swiss bank notes have featured Le Corbusier and other internationally renowned Swiss artists such as Alberto Giacometti.Heidi Weber first met Le Corbusier in the summer of 1958 in his cabanon at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in the South of France. This auspicious meeting marked the beginning of a close, collaborative and enormously productive partnership between the pair. With endless passion, determination and an unceasing enthusiasm, Weber embarked on a number of collaborative projects from the incredibly successful industrial and commercial adaptation of his furniture designs, to publishing his graphic works, to nurturing and developing the market for Le Corbusier’s art, and finally to personally funding and constructing his last building – the Heidi Weber Museum Centre Le Corbusier in Zurich, Switzerland. Described variously as the ‘leading ambassador’, ‘spiritual heiress’ or ‘mentor’ of Le Corbusier, Heidi Weber was, in Le Corbusier’s own words, a ‘monster of perseverance, devotion and enthusiasm’ (Le Corbusier, quoted in J.P. Jornod, ‘Heidi Weber’s Ambassadorship for Le Corbusier: Fifty Years in the Service of the Artist’s Vision’, in exh. cat., Heidi Weber: 50 Years Ambassador for Le Corbusier 1958-2008, Zurich, 2008-9, p. 15). Although they met for the first time in 1958, Heidi Weber’s interest in Le Corbusier had developed before this encounter. Having long been interested in art, architecture and design, Swiss-born Weber had established her reputation by founding one of the leading design and furniture galleries in Zurich. Her gallery, the Studio ‘Mezzanin’, had opened in June 1957 and had fast become one of the reference sites for contemporary design in the city, and was the first to bring Charles Eames and the Knoll collection to Switzerland. It was this same year that she first saw the work of Le Corbusier during a visit to a large exhibition of the artist, Le Corbusier, Architektur Malerei Plastik Wandteppiche, held at the Kunsthaus Zurich. ‘His paintings captured me immediately’, she recalled. ‘The expressive power of his paintings overwhelmed me’ (H. Weber, Le Corbusier – The Artist: Works from the Heidi Weber Collection, Zurich & Montreal, 1988, n.p.). Her visit to this exhibition marked a turning point in Weber’s life: ‘At this point’, Naïma Jornod has written, ‘the die was cast and her destiny was inevitably linked to Le Corbusier’s… it was not a collaboration of individuals or institutions which led her this way, but the strength of her heart’ (N. Jornod, ‘Heidi Weber and Le Corbusier’, in op. cit., Zurich, 2008-9, p. 20). Soon after this pivotal visit she bought her first piece by the artist, a collage, swapping her beloved Fiat Topolino car for the artwork – the first demonstration of the dedication to Le Corbusier’s art that would take over her life. Her next aspiration was to acquire an oil painting. She met with one of Le Corbusier’s friends, the architect Willy Boesiger, who suggested she visit the artist in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. At their first meeting, Le Corbusier immediately realised Weber’s deep passion for his work. At first, he proposed that she should work with the original design drawings for his prototype furniture. He was so impressed with her adaptation of these drawings to serial manufacturing that he then let her have a selection of paintings for an exhibition in her Zurich gallery alongside his furniture. This was to be the first of many exhibitions that she organised, each one dedicated to presenting the artist’s plastic works, and this partnership and friendship would last for the rest of Le Corbusier’s life. One of the first to recognise the importance of Le Corbusier’s lesser-known painting, drawing and sculpture, over the course of her life she dedicated herself to the dissemination of this aspect of his work. ‘I had only one wish’, Weber later explained, ‘to help Le Corbusier get the recognition for his paintings and sculptures which he deserved. His paintings and sculptures should become world renowned…’ (H. Weber, op. cit., Zurich & Montreal, 1988, n.p.). She acquired an unparalleled collection of his work, amassing a comprehensive overview of his career. From the elegant, rigidly structured purist compositions of the late 1910s and early 1920s, to the exuberant multi-hued compositions of his later years, the astonishing diversity that characterises Le Corbusier’s oeuvre can be seen in the selection of works that feature in the Impressionist and Modern Evening and Works on Paper Sales. Presenting three oil paintings (lots X-X), watercolours, a drawing and a collage (lots X-X), this selection demonstrates the range of the artist’s plastic oeuvre. An artist who constantly defied stylistic definition, his work remains resolutely distinct from that of his contemporaries.It was her deep belief in the importance of Le Corbusier’s work and her strongly felt desire to introduce it to a larger public that drove Weber to constantly seek new ways of disseminating his art. Becoming his publisher, she enabled him to create lithographs and engravings so that those who could not afford to buy an oil painting could still collect and enjoy his work. In 1960 Heidi Weber had the vision to build a museum designed by Le Corbusier, located on the Zürichsee lakeshore. This building would exhibit his works of art, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, tapestries and furniture in an ideal architectural environment as a ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ created by the architect himself. It was the last building designed by Le Corbusier, and marked a radical change from his previous use of concrete and stone. Le Corbusier, encouraged by Weber, made for the first time extensive use of prefabricated steel elements combined with multi-coloured enamelled plates fitted to the central core, and above the complex he designed a 'free-floating' roof. In 1965 Le Corbusier died, but with Heidi Weber’s typical persistence, on 15 July 1967, the Centre Le Corbusier was officially inaugurated, soon to become known as the Heidi Weber Museum – Centre Le Corbusier. Friend, confidante, collaborator and patron, Heidi Weber’s relationship with Le Corbusier was truly unique. As Le Corbusier’s fame flourished in the final decade of his life, it is undeniable that Weber’s vision, temerity and dedication to the artist played a large part in perpetuating his international renown and establishing the unparalleled reputation that he enjoys today. In fact, Le Corbusier entrusted Heidi Weber with a contract to represent and sell his art exclusively for 30 years, until 1993, which gave her first option to acquire his best art for the Heidi Weber Museum collection. In the words of Le Corbusier himself: ‘You know, Madame Weber, not even one of my best friends would have done for me what you do. You are the only person who has done anything for me’. Weber had realised and achieved all this while being a single mother, truly a precursor of her time.
Le Corbusier (1887-1965)

Nature morte et figure

Le Corbusier (1887-1965)
Nature morte et figure
signed and dated 'Le Corbusier 27-38-44' (lower right); signed and dated again 'Le Corbusier 27-38-44' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
44 3/4 x 57 1/4 in. (113.8 x 145.5 cm.)
Painted in 1927, 1938 and 1944
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.
J. Petit, Le Corbusier lui-même, Geneva, 1970, pp. 214 & 227 (illustrated p. 227).
N. & J.P. Jornod, Le Corbusier, Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, vol. II, Milan, 2005, no. 319, pp. 780-781 (illustrated p. 781).
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Lot Essay

Painted over a number of years, 1927, 1938, and completed in 1944, Nature morte et figure is a monumental work that incorporates many of the key themes and motifs that had dominated Le Corbusier’s plastic oeuvre. A kaleidoscopic array of bold colours and forms, this painting can be seen as a summation of Le Corbusier’s work as a painter and architect. Throughout his life, painting remained a central aspect of Le Corbusier’s multi-faceted artistic practice. He regarded his painting as an essential part of his oeuvre as a whole, a means through which to express himself in a more personal manner, and most importantly, as a vehicle through which to attain a pure form of poetry. ‘There are no sculptors only, no painters only, no architects only’, he declared in 1962, towards the end of his life, ‘the plastic incident fulfils itself in an overall form in the service of poetry’ (Le Corbusier, quoted in H. Gadient, ‘In the Service of Poetry’, in H. Weber, Le Corbusier – The Artist: Works from the Heidi Weber Collection, Zurich & Montreal, 1988, n.p.). At the centre of the composition, a single dark outline denotes the form of a large bottle, next to which, on the left hand side, the statuesque figure of a woman similarly fills the entire height of the canvas. Amidst a plethora of other forms, shapes and facets of colour, these two objects illustrate the two primary components of Le Corbusier’s prolific pictorial oeuvre: the still-life and the human figure. Elsewhere in the large, multi-partite composition, a pipe, and a wooden triangle – an architect’s instrument – serve as visual symbols of the artist himself. Filled with the archetypal images of the artist’s practice, Nature morte et figure is a panoramic and immersive vision of Le Corbusier’s life as an artist, a dynamic and celebratory work that encapsulates the many different facets of his pluralistic career.

Le Corbusier began this large composition in 1927, one of the most pivotal periods of his career as a painter. Having parted ways with his purist collaborator Amédée Ozenfant in 1925, Le Corbusier began to adopt a freer painterly idiom in his work, looking to nature for inspiration. While his purist compositions were primarily composed of functional, mass-produced and uniform objects – glasses, carafes and siphons amongst others – pure plastic forms that were represented in their most generalised and depersonalised state, in the mid-1920s, the artist expanded his repertoire of objects. He started to introduce what he termed objets à réaction poétique – objects that evoked poetry for the viewer. Finding these unique objects from the natural world – shells, pebbles, pieces of wood or bones – Le Corbusier began including these organic pieces alongside the functional, pure forms of Purism into his painting. In doing so, the rigid structure of his earlier purist compositions softened, becoming infused with a looser, more organic configuration. Nature morte et figure encapsulates this shift: the tightly regulated battalions of vessels that stood in rigid formation in the artist’s earlier purist compositions have broken rank and disappeared. Instead, soft organic forms and near-abstract amorphic shapes intermingle with them, floating across the composition as they intersect with fattened geometric planes of colour.

In addition to these natural objects, it was also in the late 1920s that Le Corbusier turned to the figure as the subject for his art. A theme that had been completely expunged from his earlier purist compositions, the female nude made a dramatic entrance in Le Corbusier’s painting in 1927 and came to dominate almost exclusively his work of the subsequent decade. Nude and clothed, stationary and in motion, dancing or reclining, the female figure appeared in numerous guises in all aspects of his oeuvre, infusing Le Corbusier’s art with a new softness and sensuality. As Le Corbusier explained, referring to himself, as he frequently did, in the third person, ‘Already since 1927, Le Corbusier started to focus on the drawing of the figure. From 1927 to 1937, he realised an enormous number of drawings… The human figure is now in all of the works in combination with objects and precise locations’ (Le Corbusier, quoted in N. Jornod & J.P. Jornod, Le Corbusier, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, vol. 1, Milan, 2005, p. 426). His wife, Yvonne Gallis, whom he married in 1930, often served as the model for many of these works. In the present work, a totemic, highly simplified figure of a woman dominates the left-hand side of the canvas. While her head and shoulders are legible, the rest of her body dissolves into planes of interlocking colour and line. Her breast is denoted by the bird’s eye view of a wine glass, while her legs are just visible, her left foot outturned and wearing a heeled shoe.

After beginning this work in 1927, Le Corbusier returned to it in 1938, and finally in 1944, when it was completed. In the 1940s, Le Corbusier created works that are known as his ‘Acoustic paintings’. Beginning in 1942, in the midst of the Second World War, while Le Corbusier was living in exile in Ozon, in the Pyrenees, these paintings, created alongside a number of sculptures, brought together in visual form, concepts of sound and space. Combining previously used motifs with strange new, curvilinear and volumetric forms, these works have a distinctly surrealist feel. Painted in the midst of this ‘Acoustic’ period, Nature morte et figure includes some of these amorphic forms, namely the curving, pale turquoise element that dominates the right hand side of the composition.

Colour abounds in this multi-faceted and exuberant painting. While in his purist works Le Corbusier had worked with a limited and restrained colour palette, from the late 1920s onwards, colour burst into Le Corbusier’s art and remained one of the most prominent characteristics of his plastic oeuvre. He drew upon this formal tool to construct his compositions, using overlapping and interlocking planes of unmodulated colour in complex arrangements. Yet, in addition to this, colour allowed Le Corbusier to impart a sense of poeticism and harmony into his practice, both artistic and architectural. ‘Colour is an immediate and spontaneous expression of life’, the artist once stated (Le Corbusier, quoted in H. Weber, Le Corbusier – The Artist: Works from the Heidi Weber Collection, Zurich & Montreal, 1988, n.p.), and Nature morte et figure, with its multi-hued explosion of colour, perfectly encapsulates this strongly felt sentiment.

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