Flickr Widget

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Le Corbusier's strange obsession with E.1027

Eileen Gray designed and built the villa known as E.1027 as a vacation home on an isolated stretch of the French Riviera on the western side of Cap Martin overlooking the Bay of Monaco for her lover, architect and critic Jean Badovici. The home was completed in 1929. The name of the house sounds very impersonal, but it is actually a code for their intertwined names. The E is for Eileen, and the 10 is for J, the tenth letter in the alphabet. The 2 is for B, and the 7 is for G.

Both Badovici and Gray knew Le Corbusier, who was considered the most prominent modernist architect of the time. In fact, Le Corbusier had encouraged her work early in her career and had become fascinated with her as a person and an artist. He developed an obsessive interest in E.1027, and in 1938 he entered the house and painted a series of eight sexual murals on the walls. Some say Badovici invited him, while others say he was uninvited.

Whether invited or not, he himself called it vandalism. Gray was livid when she discovered what had happened. She insisted that Badovici write a letter to Le Corbusier, demanding that he pay to have the murals removed and return the house to its original condition. Le Corbusier reacted by publishing photographs, saying his murals "burst out from dull, sad walls where nothing is happening…an immense transformation, a spiritual value introduced throughout."

In the 1952 Le Corbusier built a wooden structure knows as the Cabanon near E.1027, so he could look at the house constantly. When Badovici died in 1956, he built a two-storey hostel overlooking the house. In 1965 Le Corbusier had a heart attack and died while swimming in the waters outside E.1027.

Gray died in 1976 at almost 100 years of age, and it is said that she never got over her resentment about the murals.

From kaufmann-mercantile.com, ounodesign.com, patriciaoreilly.com and shedworking.co.uk


E.1027
ounodesign.com

E.1027
ounodesign.com

Le Corbusier, his wife and Jean Badovici
ounodesign.com

Le Corbusier painting one of the murals at E.1027
kaufmann-mercantile.com

Le Corbusier and one of the murals
fondationlecorbusier.fr

Cabanon
shedworking.co.uk

For those of you curious about the scar on Le Corbusier's leg, he was injured in 1938 while swimming in Saint-Tropez Bay. He was trapped under a yacht as it passed over him, and the propeller blades cut him badly. You can read his account of the incident here.

13 comments:

  1. Whoa, Le Corbo was a weird fellow and that pic of him painting in the nude...Uh, freaky. That said I have one of those E1027 side tables (or a very, very good copy) that I picked up at a thrift for $10. Another great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, there's something a little disturbing about his attachment to Eileen Gray's house...and that photo. I almost didn't include it in the post for fear that it would be offensive to some people, but it's kinda integral to the idea that he had a creepy obsession. Apparently it's a very well known photo.

      Congrats on finding the E1027 table at such a great price. You really have a knack for locating great things at amazing prices.

      Delete
  2. This was really weird and wonderful, Dana. I love stories like this.. what a freak! Not that it's bad or good. I suppose most creative, intelligent, artistic types have a mind like no other. I suppose that's why we are drawn to their work. If they weren't a little "off" they'd be less interesting, no? I do find it strange that he would paint these large murals without her knowledge. I'm not sure if I believe that. How about you? hummmmmm... great story!
    I love her sofa/bench designs the best.

    I'm glad you told us about the scar... that was my first question when I saw the picture. What the heck happened? I will forever think different when I hear his name or see his designs. Again, not good or bad... just different. The photos are so important to the story. Glad you used them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently Gray put her heart and soul into the design and building of that home and felt very proprietary about it, but she had given it to Badovici as a gift when they were together. From the timeline I can piece together, their affair was over by the time Le Corbusier painted the murals, and she was living back in Paris. Still, I'm sure she felt her work had been violated, if not her home. That would account for her insisting that Badavici contact Le Corbusier, instead of doing it herself.

      I agree that most true geniuses tend to live outside the accepted norms of society, no matter what those norms are at them time. That's why there have been so many books and films about their lives. Like you said, if they were just like the rest of us, they wouldn't be particularly interesting.

      Like you, this story gave me a whole new perspective on Le Corbusier. Photos of him in his suit and tie and little round glasses always have looked so prissy and stuffy to me. I guess I really had him pegged wrong! :)

      Delete
    2. Oh I'm so glad I left a comment. That definitely explains why she would have been upset... if she had given it to Badovici then she wouldn't have known. I may have missed that part. The plot thickens! I can definitely see why that would have affected her so. Again, we go back to the artist and their work no matter who has it, pays for it, or "borrows" it, it remains very personal and in many ways still "theirs". Makes sense that she would see that as a violation of her work.
      This was so interesting. Good conversation! Thanks Dana.

      Delete
    3. I think her anger was typical of relationships too, whether the breakup was amicable or bitter. I'm sure it stung a bit that Badovici let that happen to the house she designed for him...and she may have always had a nagging feeling that he was complicit.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for expanding my earlier comment on his mural painting of the house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had completely forgotten that you made that comment. I went back to look it up...way back, in fact...November 2011! Thanks for jogging my memory. I'm sure, as an architect, you have run across many great stories about giants in your field. You really should start an architecture blog!

      Delete
  4. Perhaps some day, as soon as I post something you'd have already beat me to it! Corbu also had an affair with Josephine Baker the dancer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I read that about him when I was researching this post. I found it interesting that for a good part of his career, he didn't consider female designers/architects as equals. That changed when he met Eileen Gray and Charlotte Perriand. I also found his interest in the occult oddly out of character...or at least what I had assumed to be his character.

      Delete
  5. Wow - he gives the most interesting man in the world a run for the beer money!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That he does...but The Most Interesting Man in the World is based on Fernando Lamas, and I had a HUGE crush on him when I was a kid, so I think he's still out ahead...and not nearly as creepy. (And I mean creepy in the nicest possible way...LOL)

      Delete
  6. Wow! That's some crazy stuff, right there! What a fascinating guy...

    ReplyDelete