Le Corbusier | The artist | Le Corbusier’s Path
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His Path

Born in 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Swit­z­er­land, as Charles-Edouard Jean­ne­ret-Gris, Le Cor­bu­sier, as he was later known, was obses­sed with drawing at an early age. At the school of app­lied arts, he made rapid pro­gress on his path to beco­m­ing a pain­ter. His teacher arou­sed in him a pas­sion for archi­tec­ture as well, and secu­red the 17-year-old his first com­mis­sion.


Pro­pel­led by a drive towards great­ness, he soon found his birth­place to be too restric­tive. In 1917, he sett­led in Paris, where star­ting in 1918 he deve­lo­ped the new move­ment known as Purism out of what was at that time late Cubism. As an artist, he belonged to the van­guard of the avant-garde and was soon exhi­bi­t­ing at the gal­lery of Léonce Rosen­berg, the dea­ler of the likes of Picasso, Braque, and Léger. 


In 1920, he became one of the foun­ders of the jour­nal L’Esprit Nou­veau, which was devo­ted to the deve­lop­ments in art and the sci­en­ces. He signed his unusually dar­ing and suc­cinctly worded essays on archi­tec­ture with the pseud­onym: Le Cor­bu­sier. These wri­tings were publis­hed in 1923 in the antho­logy Vers une Archi­tec­ture, using a revo­lu­tio­nary design by the artist. The book made him world famous – Le Corbusier’s ascent to the throne of immor­ta­lity in archi­tec­ture had begun. 


Up to the time of his death in the Medi­ter­ra­nean at Roque­brune-Cap-Mar­tin on the French Riviera, in 1965, he was buil­ding on five con­ti­nents and con­stantly recrea­ting him­s­elf. Time Maga­zine coun­ted him among the 100 most influ­en­tial per­so­na­li­ties of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury and hai­led him as the most important archi­tect of all, seven­teen of his buil­dings are on the list of UNESCO World Heri­tage Sites. 


As an archi­tect he was a path brea­ker for Moder­nism – as an urba­nist and aut­hor a gua­ran­tee for furor – as a desi­gner the crea­tor of time­l­ess fau­teuils – and as an artist the ori­gi­na­tor of works that are now worth millions…How did Le Cor­bu­sier manage to do all this? How to explain the pheno­me­nal pro­duc­tivity of this per­son crazy with the urge to create? 


He gai­ned strength and inspi­ra­tion from his art: for deca­des he devo­ted every morning to his art­work. Art was “the key to my exis­tence,” he repea­tedly empha­si­zed. About 500 oil pain­tings, thou­sands of drawings, hund­reds of gra­phics, and count­less tapestries, sculp­tu­res, and ena­mel works bear wit­ness to this. He lived by “that which is the most important value in life”: by all that is poe­tic, by “the crea­tion of the spi­rit.”


T. Rabara


Le Cor­bu­sier in 1937 while working
on the pain­ting “Plou­gre­scant”.

© akg-images / Paul Almasy;
FLC / 2016, Pro­Lit­te­ris, Zurich