Poem of the Right Angle

Le Corbusier.
Le Poème de l'Angle droit. (Poem of the Right Angle).
Paris: Tériade, [1955]. (12133).

No. 225 of 270 copies signed by Le Corbusier.

Composed between 1947 and 1953, the Poème is illustrated throughout including numerous lithographs printed in black on color and lithograph text in the artist’s hand. It was created during the period when Le Corbusier (1887–1965) and other artists, including Matisse, Picasso, Sartre, and Giacometti, worked with a small publishing house run by the Greek publisher Tériade. For three decades during the mid-twentieth century, Tériade published twenty-seven livres d’artiste, “nine of which contain texts authored by the artist who created the ‘illustrations.’ ” Tériade referred to these books as "artistic microcosms." (Rabinow, iv.)

Le Poème de l'Angle droit was Le Corbusier’s first exposure in print of his art and verse, having never done verse prior to this volume. He created his illustrations before he wrote the poems, arranging them into an organizational outline related to color. Each lithograph and its accompanying text is assigned a number, starting with a letter assignment (“A” through “G”) and sub-sections based on the number of lithographs, e.g. A.1-A.5. The exhibited opening is A.3, within the color green, titled “Milieu”, and introduces man as procreator as well as being the first poem to introduce the term, “the right angle.”  The poem reads, “Upright on the terrestrial plateau of things perceptible to you, contract with nature a pack of solidarity: it is the right angle. Upright in front of the sea vertical, there you are on your legs.” Le Corbusier’s theory is that the right angle is a pact between man and the environment.

A.3 features man prominently, laid against a red ground with the figure bisected by the horizon line. Below is a compass-like structure, decorated with yellow, red, green, and blue, and offering fusion, environment, and spirit. Green, the environment in his letter assignment, is used to denote natural cycles. The bisection of the circle forms right angles to man, and reinforces Le Corbusier’s “pact of solidarity.”

Born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret in 1887, Swiss-French Le Corbusier was regarded as a pioneer of modern architecture. He designed buildings in Europe, Japan, India, and North and South America. Le Corbusier was told at an early age that he was not predisposed to be a painter. Nevertheless, painting was very important to him, and he continued to paint throughout his life. In addition to painting, he considered himself an architect, a writer, and an urban planner. Le Corbusier divided his days to each pursuit, citing painting as deeply personal without the restrictions placed on him with architecture. The support of the publisher, Tériade, gave him an opportunity for expression that resulted in the art for which Le Corbusier is best known.

Rabinow, Rebecca A. "The Legacy of La Rue Ferou: "Livres d'Artiste" Created for Tériade by Rouault, Bonnard, Matisse, Leger, Le Corbusier, Chagall, Giacometti, and Miro." Order No. 9609237 New York University, 1995. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 13 July 2021.

© 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / FLC

Poem of the Right Angle