Purism – The History
Purism, an extension of Cubism founded by two artists, was a short-lived diverse painting style that emerged after the First World War. The two artists were French Cubist painter Amedee Ozenfant (1886-1966) and Swiss architect, writer, & painter Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (also known as Le Corbusier – 1887-1965). They were introduced to each other through a common friend, the French Cubist painter Fernand Leger (1881-1955). Both artists shared an avid interest of Cubism, to be portrayed in absolute form and in an orderly fashion. In 1918, Ozenfant and Le Corbusier wrote a manifesto titled ‘Apres le Cubisme,’ which meant ‘after Cubism.’ It was through this book that they shared their views and introduced the basic principles of Purism for the first time.
Ozenfant and Le Corbusier disapproved of the use of Cubism in Decorative Arts, which was a common practice then. They wished to create a more systematic and fundamental art style for functional purposes. And, they created Purism. These artists believed there was no place for fantasy, passion, or intensity in art. Purism followed a structured approach. Machine Age highly influenced it. Purists’ works generally had clear strong lines with flat geometric forms. Their human figures were beautiful and proportional with the right coloring, but they lacked emotion or softness. Often depictions seemed robotic in spite of their extensive use of pure vibrant colors. Purist paintings were generally harmonious, yet impersonal and had an aura of detachment to them.
Le Corbusier’s ‘Still Life’ (1920) at Museum of Modern Art and Amedee Ozenfant’s ‘Guitar and Bottle’ at Guggenheim Museum are the typical examples of Purism. ‘The City’ (1919) and ‘Three Women’ (1921) are two of Fernand Leger’s famous Purist works.
Ozenfant and Le Corbusier were not just the main protagonists of Purism, but perhaps the only ones of their time, as the movement was not a success. In 1925, Ozenfant and Le Corbusier wrote a French book called ‘La Peinture Moderne’ to promote the theories of Purism. The book was later published in English with the title ‘The Foundations of Modern Art.’ They practiced Purism diligently from 1918 to 1925. Later, Le Corbusier devoted himself to architecture. His Purist theories had a major influence on the modern architecture. Fernand Leger was also an enthusiast of Purism. Some other proponents who were inclined towards Purism in the later years were Czech artist Bedrich Feuerstein (1892-1936), the American Precisionist painters, and the ‘Group of Estonian Artists’ from Tallinn.
Source by Annette Labedzki