DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 39.5 x 32.0 inches/ 100.3 x 81.3 cms
SIGNATURE: Signed lower right
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas
In the early Purist manifestoes, colour was deemed secondary to form, and this could be seen in the careful placing of colour to reinforce discrete architectural elements by Le Corbusier in his work of the mid-1920s. However, by the time he was in England, Ozenfant had refined his ideas about colour, and outlined many of these in the six articles on the subject that he wrote for the Architectural Review.
Colour was now regarded as an essential element of architecture, rather than something considered by the architect while his work was being erected. Ozenfant believed that colour always modifies the form of the building and should receive more careful attention. He wrote; “We must endeavour to introduce a little order into this business, or at least sense into a great deal of it. But what is sense without order? We must try to find some method of arriving at some sort of order—one that will at least enable us to escape from this vagueness in the design of colour.” Ozenfant’s revised thoughts on the importance of colour were partly due to the influence of the artist Paul Signac, and his theories on Divisionism. Unlike the techniques used by the earlier Impressionists, patches of colours remained distinct, blending when viewed at a distance. In this instance, when no fusion of the colours takes place, the interaction is called “simultaneous contrast”, a condition in which colours merely influence one another by proximity.
This technique prevents the muddiness or darkening that results when patches of colour run into each other. It was an extension of this technique that was recommended by Ozenfant for achieving “colour solidity” in architecture, altering colours visually by contrast to create the illusion of solidity. This notion of “solidity” increasingly became an issue as the nature of modern construction changed, especially when dealing with such things as the lightweight partition and the glass curtain wall. In 1937 Ozenfant said: “I believe that an immense service would be done to architects, decorators, house-painters etc., if a chart especially adapted to their particular requirements were established. This chart might contain about a hundred hues.” The effect of his words can be seen in a number of articles on colour published in England shortly after the Second World War. Indeed, we are told in 1956 that they had a direct influence on the decoration of some of the early post-war schools.
The Ozenfant School of Fine Arts in New York was in operation from 1939 until 1955. Ozenfant taught and lectured widely in the United States until 1955, when he returned to France. He remained there for the rest of his life and died in Cannes in 1966.