A Nude Le Corbusier and Eileen Gray’s Modernist Icon
One might say its like a Greek tragedy… In 1939 Le Corbusier, the father of Modernism, invades the house of the mother of Modernism, Eileen Gray, dishonors it and banishes her. Le Corbusier explained how he had a “raging desire to sully the walls,” he added “Ten compositions are finished, enough to soil everything.” He was talking about E.1027, Eileen Gray’s ultra-modern house. Eileen had designed and built it in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the Côte d’ Azur for herself and her lover, Romanian architect Jean Badovici. The relationship didn’t last long and as a parting gift Eileen left the house to Badovichi. He opened the door to his close friend Le Corbusier and had him paint a series of semi-abstract murals, some of them with erotic themes, the sheer power of which truly ravaged the house’s delicate Minimalism.
In 1926, Gray’s partner Jean Badovici, suggested she find a spot in the South of France for a summer home for the two. Excited by the idea, Gray decided upon a secluded hillside site, unreachable by car, within a bushy grove of lemons and banana palms. There, she conceived an idyllic retreat, rendered in bright white and drenched in sunlight, stylish but ultimately pragmatic finishings… the exquisite holiday home E-1027 was born.
The property’s exterior is essentially a rectangular box nestled into the hillside, bolstered by pillars, and disrupted by a cube with horizontal strips of dark shuttered windows. This house highlighted the relationship between user and home. Paying close attention to the types of furniture that would sit within the building, as well as the way its inhabitants would interact and navigate through the space, the design of E-1027 was immensely influenced by comfort and function. Custom built cabinets and drawers fitted seamlessly into rooms, with conveniently designed storage for summer apparel, while cosy niches’ provided moments for privacy, and thoughtfully positioned windows framed the most striking of views of the ocean.
Scattered throughout were a fabulous assortment of iconic chairs for every mood and postural requirement, alongside elegant drinks trolleys, reading stands and coffee tables. When E-1027 was finally finished in 1929, Gray was 51 years old. Unfortunately the project was ill fated; it never functioned as the romantic getaway nest the couple had intended, and the pair split up within months. The bad luck continued in the years to come when Badovici invited his friend Charles-Édouard Jeanneret to stay at E-1027 with his wife, Yvonne. Jeanneret, who self-named himself as Le Corbusier, had recently gained praise for his Villa Savoye, and came to the seaside to unwind, lounging around E-1027, often in the nude, as is well documented.
Le Corbusier was confused on how an untrained women in architecture could execute something so remarkable. Frustrated and irritated, he eventually felt the need to act out in some way. He decided then touched white walls needed to be touched so he painted eight provocative murals of Picasso-inspired female figures, some suggestively entwined, intended to mock Gray’s bisexuality. Angered, Gray defined these unwanted murals as an act of vandalism. After a heated argument Badovici eventually told Le Corbusier he was no longer welcome in E-1027.
In 1956, Badovici passed away, and in and odd twist it was Le Corbusier who arranged for it to be sold to an affluent Swiss widow named Marie-Louise Schelbert. Schelbert passed the home onto her doctor, an alleged morphine addict, Peter Kaegi, who was murdered there in what a police report described as a sex tryst gone wrong. After that, E-1027 was abandoned and occupied by squatters. Le Corbusier drowned while swimming off the beach at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, just below E.1027, a possible suicide. Gray died peacefully in Paris on October 31, 1976, at the age of 98.
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How A Nude Le Corbusier Vandalised Eileen Gray’s Modernist Icon