The eye of the collector by Jean-luc Ferrand

L’EPLATTENIER Charles

Monday 2 May 2016, by Barbara Cogollos

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Rare relief signed by L’EPLATTENIER in plaster and white coat.

Charles L’EPLATTENIER was born in Neuchâtel in Switzerland in 1874. During his youth he attended an apprenticeship as a house painter. Thanks to his precocious talent, seriousness and zeal, he was advised to follow the course of the municipal art school in Neuchâtel.

In 1890, Charles L’EPLATTENIER moves his aunt’s house in Budapest. There he was received and noticed at the School of Decorative Arts. Three years later, he returns to Paris and follows the course of Luc-Olivier MERSON, who was a famous painter decorator.

After graduation, Charles L’EPLATTENIER returned to Switzerland and settled in La Chaux-de-fonds. Neuchâtel was considered at that time as a model of urban planning, economic and social success. He became a master of drawing and decorative composition at the School of Industrial Arts of La Chaux-de-fonds in 1897. Starting from 1905, Charles L’EPLATTENIER creates the Higher Courses of theorizing which purely his own invention. To continue his method, Charles L’EPLATTENIER opens his New Section in 1911, whose purpose was to train teams of decorators and contractors working under the artistic principles of the European standarts and especially the German Jugendstil. L’EPLATTENIER set up a new teaching which consisted of few hours of classes and lots of personal creation. He was also regularly taking his students for a walk in the Swiss mountains to familiarize them with the representations of nature. He also developed an appreciation of the art building trades through a program that precedes the one chosen by the Bauhaus some 10 years later. Through this course, students realized various projects.For example the crematorium of the city of La Chaux-de-fonds.


L’EPLATTENIER style has evolved considerably over the time. Big fan of painting, he was the first to use a specific pictorial realism until 1903. Then he developped a pointillist technique which brought many orders, still visible today such as the barracks and crematorium of La Chaux-des-fonds. Both these projects were made with the help of his students. L’EPLATTENIER represented a lot the human body, nude and nature and especially Swiss landscapes. He was searching to create a new esthetic and image to his own country. He develops a regional variant of the Art Nouveau called « Style Sapin ». This style was more close to the Vienna Secession than to French Art Nouveau and develops particularly in architecture. The most famous example of this style is Villa Fallet, designed by Le Corbusier in 1906, while he was a close associate of L’EPLATTENIER. Tinged with nationalism, this style is intended as a response to the wide dominance of French and English decorative arts. L’EPLATTENIER was also influenced by Japanese art including decorative patterns and the subtle play of great compositions.

L’EPLATTENIER, was a precursor of Art Nouveau in Switzerland, an accomplished artist, an enterprising designer, but also a fine teacher. He entertained his students and developped their talents. This was particularly the case of Charles Edouard Jeanneret, who was a shy, but promising student. Later, he will be known by the name of Le Corbusier. L’EPLATTENIER orients to the architecture and sends his students in Paris to the classes of Auguste Perret, who was a pioneering architect and specialist of reinforced concrete. Charles Edouard Jeanneret will keep all his life a deep respect with a sincere admiration for his master. It is evidenced by the numerous letters that they exchanged until the death of the L’EPLATTENIER : "You are also one of those noble souls my dear master, a soul pure, ideal, abstract (...) "or" (...) through education that you have given us, made of solid principles. It was the best that we could have hoped (...) ". It was also L’EPLATTENIER, who made LE CORBUSIER discover the famous work of Owen Jones: « Grammar of Ornament », which has deeply inspired the future great architect. Le Corbusier will join his former school as an architecture professor in 1912. From 1913, L’EPLATTENIER started to theorize his teachings and dedicates most of his works to the precision, imaginative and interpretative drawing.


L’EPLATTENIER also transmits his passion to museums and music to his students. He subscribes art school in La Chaux-de-fonds to the german magazine « Jugendstill Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration ». It is also an emeritus professor, as evidenced by many awards obtained by his students at the Milan International Exhibition in 1902 especially having decorated boxes for fine watches. L’EPLATTENIER continued his teaching career until 1914, when he left school for political reasons and also in order to focus on his artistic career. He will keep in contact with many of his students including Le Corbusier. He dedicated the rest of his days to painting and sculpture and died in 1946 during a walk in the wooded valleys of the Doubs who had born his passion, his love and his talent for reinterpreting nature .

Although long time forgotten, L’EPLATTENIER is an artist whose genius is recently rediscovered, and represented by various exhibitions that have honored him. For example two exhibitions at the museum of La Chaux-de-fonds in 1974 and 1987 or the exhibition "Charles L’eplattenier, a precursor of the Bauhaus" in 1981.

The relief that we offer is a rare piece of this artist. Although he was a talented sculptor L’EPLATTENIER has, to our knowledge, not perform other reliefs of this type,which underlines its rarity and importance.

The rediscovery of this great, but too long forgotten artist is also expressed in the auction houses. For example, an oil on canvas estimated € 8000-10000 can rise up to € 17,000. Another oil on canvas was sold for € 13,800 at Basel Beurret & Bailly Auktionen on 06/15/13.

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