“Lucien Hervé – Geometries under the light” at Villa Savoye

The Center des monuments nationaux and Le Jeu de Paume present “Lucien Hervé. Geometries under the light ”an exhibition of the work of photographer Lucien Hervé (1910-2007) devoted to a selection of his architectural shots, at the Villa Savoye from November 21, 2019 to February 23, 2020.


Observatoire, Delhi, Inde 1955 Lucien Hervé © Lucien Hervé, Paris


Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the meeting between Le Corbusier and Lucien Hervé, the exhibition intends to renew the artistic dialogue initiated by the two creators around the “learned, correct and magnificent play of shapes assembled in light”.


“Lucien Hervé – Geometries under the light”
21 November, 2019 – 23 February, 2020
Villa Savoye
82 Rue de Villiers, 78300 Poissy


The exhibition of Lucien Hervé’s photographs at the Villa Savoye, a monument designed by Le Corbusier in 1931, marks the 70th anniversary of the meeting between the two creators, collaborators and friends. If this meeting was decisive in the course of the 39-year-old photographer, it also represented a beginning for the already established architect: that of a new dialogue between his architectural work and his representation. “You have the soul of an architect and you know how to see architecture,” wrote Le Corbusier in his first letter to Lucien Hervé, “come and see me!” “.


Lucien Hervé – Géométries sous la lumière Photo : Lucien Hervé. © Paul Getty Trust, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles


The first discussion between the two men focused more on the visual arts, and especially painting, rather than architecture or photography. This first shared passion expresses in a fundamental way their vision of art. Le Corbusier had created a total work by expressing himself in many fields. Hervé’s beginnings as a painter testify to his commitment to this global view. Their dialogue has deepened over the years around shared visions, above all on man and his place in the society of the time. In his youth, Lucien Hervé was involved in trade unionism, the Communist Party and in the resistance. Established artist, he associated himself with Le Corbusier’s social vision.


Lucien Hervé – Géométries sous la lumière Photo : Lucien Hervé. © Paul Getty Trust, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles


Lucien Hervé’s exhibition at Villa Savoye offers the public a special opportunity to bring the works of the two artists back into dialogue. Lucien Hervé’s limited choice of photographs seeks to resonate with the space of the villa, its geometry, its rhythms, its volumes, its delicate balances, its materials. “Knowing how to see architecture”, as Le Corbusier put it, represented for the photographer the fact of contemplating it, taking over its spaces, touching its picture rails and observing its interaction with changing light – before daring transform it. Because if Le Corbusier’s constructions can be understood as sculptures, Lucien Hervé’s photographs become works of plastic art tending towards abstraction. A series of photographs interpreting this architectural vision punctuates the visit.


Lucien Hervé – Géométries sous la lumière Photo : Lucien Hervé. © Paul Getty Trust, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles


“Light and shadow are speakers of this architecture …” – said Le Corbusier about the shots of Hervé on Thoronet Abbey, a monument also managed by the Center des monuments nationaux. This fair observation applies to this particular building, but more broadly synthesizes the main elements of construction specific to the photographer. Alongside the abbey, a series of other sites, such as the vernacular houses of the Mediterranean or the ancient monuments of India, weave a link between the two artists, like so many shared discoveries and sources of inspiration.

Lucien Hervé’s hanging methods have always reflected his conviction that the purpose of a work of art is not to decorate. He never considered his photographs as works in themselves, but rather as images intended to captivate and move. From his first exhibitions, he sought to make them opportunities for exchanges, surprises, questions. The Villa Savoye, itself full of surprises, if “untouchable” in its current state, is a real challenge to the hanging of the images of the photographer who was the subject of a scenographic project led with students from the National School of Decorative Arts. The semi-open spaces of the villa, the continuous play between the interior and the exterior is extended in the photographs of Lucien Hervé who, using light, transfigures the walls, surfaces, materials like stone or concrete.