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What is the Purism Art Movement?

Purism Art Movement

Over the years, many art movements have been developed by famous artists, who have been developing and expanding on their ways of doing art. Nowadays, we have access to a great many styles from a great many movements.

One such type, the Purism art movement, is a movement that occurred from around the end of World War I in 1918 to 1925. This art movement greatly influenced French works of art and architecture and existed as a way to repair the damages incurred to art in France as a result of the World War.

So the purpose here is to ask the question: what is the Purism art movement?

A variation of the Cubism movement, Purism was a movement led by Amédée Ozenfant and Charles Edouard Jeanneret, otherwise known as Le Corbusier. Jeanneret moved to France in 1917, where his end goal was to become an architect and a painter.

Upon becoming friends, Jeanneret found that Ozenfant curated an art and fashion magazine called L’Elan, where he had developed the word Purism, a word he used to describe a clean and orderly style of art. Working together, the two then developed it into a movement.

To become the main and leading advocate of the Purism movement, Jeanneret decided a name change was in order. This name would have had a resonance with many people in France, where popular artists of the past such as Le Douanier Rousseau would have been remembered.

Thus, Le Corbusier was born, derived from an ancestor of Jeanneret.

So then, what is the Purism art movement? The pair of artists defined it as coming after Cubism and as such it relied on the form, but also managed to depart from the chaotic nature and brokenness of Cubism that so often dominated paintings.

Purism Art Movement

Especially following the end of World War I, Purism was found to represent the order, wholeness, balance, and clarity in works, very much like the Classical art periods.

The metallic surfaces of machines and the columns of architecture were displayed in simple geometric shapes and are considered a rejection of the embellishment seen in many works and a rejection of the inherent notion of the beauty of the early 20th century. 

This is best seen in Ozenfant’s and Le Corbusier’s first exhibition from the 22nd  of December 1918 to the 11th of January 1919. Alongside the show, the artists published a document explaining the ideas of the movement, which they considered to be a move away from the Classical ideals of Cubism and into a more orderly and logical artistic expression.

Ferdinand Léger and other famous artists are credited with joining the movement to further sand back the edges of the Cubism movement. From 1920 to 1925, the artists produced a magazine called L’Esprit Nouveau which served as a propaganda machine for the movement they created.

Unfortunately for Le Corbusier, Purism wasn’t very profitable and didn’t manage to earn him much money. At the same time, his work as an architect broke down, and ultimately, he went bankrupt. As big as these losses may have been, they were less severe due to his rising reputation in the art world.

Although it may not have yet been a hit with the masses, Le Corbusier’s writings in the magazine he and Ozenfant co-founded set him up to be a lead thinker the world across in the design and architectural spheres.

The orderly, modern and geometric design of Purism artworks appeal to only certain groups in the art world, but when the aesthetic design was transferred to architecture, the reach and appeal of Purism grew even stronger.

Housing, for example, was considered a machine for living in, something that could be mass-produced as a solution for the housing problem in France following the war.

Even despite Le Corbusier’s financial problems and his debts, he became one of the best and most prominent artists, designers, and architects of the 20th century, all on account of his artistic movement and its resonance with architectural design. 

Conclusion

For many of us today, we may find it difficult to see the difference between the Cubist and Purist art forms on display. As a result, it is important and helpful for us to ask the question “what is the Purism art movement?” so that we can understand the things that we don’t.

Indeed, the influence of Purism is no doubt all around us, where the influence on both architect and artist persists. The valuation of order, mass production, and the classical influences on buildings, furniture, and cities that Le Corbusier and Ozenfant exhibited in their work no doubt continues to influence our world today, in the art and architecture of our modern, 21st-century era.

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