Le Corbusier | The artist – His life, his path, his inspiration
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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 / 2019, Pro­Lit­teris, Zurich