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Purism


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Amédée Ozenfant (1886—1966)

Le Corbusier (1887—1965) French architect and town planner, born in Switzerland

Cubism

still life

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A movement in French painting advocating an art of clarity and objectivity in tune with the machine age; its founders and sole exponents were Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier, who met in Paris in 1918, and it flourished from then until 1925. Feeling that Cubism—‘the troubled art of a troubled time’—was degenerating into an art of decoration, they regarded their association as ‘a campaign for the reconstitution of a healthy art’, aiming to ‘inoculate artists with the spirit of the age’. They set great store by ‘the lessons inherent in the precision of machinery’ and held that emotion and expressiveness should be strictly excluded from art, apart from the beauty of functional efficiency—the ‘mathematical lyricism’ that is the proper response to a well-composed picture. Their characteristic paintings are still lifes—cool, clear, almost diagrammatically flat, and impersonally finished. Despite the anti-emotionalism of this functionalist outlook, Ozenfant and Le Corbusier advocated Purism with missionary fervour and dogmatic certainty—in their book Après le Cubisme (1918) and other writings. However, they seemed to realize that it represented something of a dead end pictorially and moved on to much looser styles. The movement's main sequel is to be found in Le Corbusier's architectural work and theories and more generally in the field of design, where there is some kinship with the contemporary ideals of the Bauhaus.

Subjects: Art.


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