Le Corbusier (Charles-Edouard Jeanneret)
N06224 Taureau III (Bull III) 1953
Inscribed 'Le Corbusier | 53' b.l. and 'Atlas Chandigarh | L-C 1953' on back of canvas
Oil on canvas, 63 ¾ x 44 ¾ (162 x 113.5)
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1954
Exh: Le Corbusier, ICA, London, May 1953 (not in catalogue); Le Corbusier: Oeuvres Plastiques, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, November 1953-January 1954 (37, repr.); Le Corbusier: L'Oeuvre Plastique, Kunsthalle, Bern, July-September 1954 (26), dated 1952-3
Lit: Eugen Wretholm, 'Le Corbusier som målare' in Konstrevy, XXIX, 1953, pp.6-7; Jean Petit, Le Corbusier lui-même (Geneva 1970), pp.154, 214, repr. p.229
Repr: exh. catalogue Le Corbusier 'Les Taureaux', Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, January-February 1956 (not exhibited, pl.1)
Painted in Atlas Chandigarh, India, in 1953. The first version of this theme was painted in 1952 and was followed by 'Bull Ia' and 'Bull II', so the present composition is in fact the fourth of the series.
The artist wrote that the series of 'Bulls' developed from an upright painting of 1920 (a still life with a violin) of which a photograph was viewed horizontally. 'And step by step, thirty years after, my mind occupied with other things and in particular with the possibility of using human figures to create a "bestiary", were born the successive deformations. And one day the discovery of a bull on my canvases appeared entirely beyond my control. There followed the development of the theme itself (the Bulls VIII to XIII approximately), and finally a change of sensibility with regard to the theme and a new distribution of the elements of the painting' (letter of 25 June 1958).
The still life with a violin of 1920 referred to above was in his Purist manner. When he took up the composition again in 1952 the forms at once began to assume an organic character in keeping with his change of style, so that, for instance, the shadow of the violin was made to suggest the profile of a head. In the drawings and paintings which followed, the forms underwent a strange metamorphosis as though they had taken on a life of their own. The only traces of the violin which survive in the present composition are the profile-like lines on the left, which are developed from its silhouette, and the curved lines lower down, in the centre, which seem to be derived from the instrument's neck. In the Bull paintings I-X the basic image is that of a three-quarter length figure of a woman with her head turned upwards and fused in some way with the horns of a bull. (This can be seen most clearly in Bulls VI and VII of 1954 and also in some of the early studies). In the Tate Gallery picture, the figure is not so easy to make out. However one can recognise her head with the two eyes and the bull's horns, the torso with its pair of breasts (circular patches of green and red), and the skirt. A new development begins with 'Bull X', of 1955, also known as 'The Rape of Europa', in which the bull's face is introduced in the bottom right-hand corner: the girl appears to be riding on the animal's back. This marks the end of the first part of the series and leads on to the next phase. In the remaining works XI-XV (executed in 1955-7) the upright format is abandoned in favour of a landscape shape, while the bull's face is fused with the figure of a girl in a variety of arrangements.
(The artist kindly allowed the compiler to consult all the material relating to this series. Photographs of 'Still Life with a Violin' of 1920 and the works immediately derived from it have been reproduced by E. Wretholm, op. cit.; for reproductions of Bulls I-XIII and XV see J. Petit, op. cit., pp.228-30).
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.415-16, reproduced p.415