Villa Stein de Monzie
Built by Corbusier in 1927 for Gertrude Stein’s sister-in-law, Sarah, her husband Michael and their friend Gabrielle de Monzie. It is considered one of Corbusier’s largest and grandest family homes of the period and an important milestone in his career.
Born Sarah Samuels, married to Gertrude Stein’s brother Michael, the couple built up an important art collection with a particular focus on Matisse. They are credited with financially helping Matisse open a school of art with Sarah as one of the pupils and bringing Matisse to the attention of the American public.
Pre WW1 the Steins gave Berlin gallery owner Fritz Gurlitt, nineteen important works of art for an exhibition in Berlin. When the war broke out they couldn’t access their works and it is reported that they were never able to get back their art, regardless of tracing it with the help of a private detective. The Gurlitt family later gained notoriety when Wolfgang and Hildebrand acted as art dealers for Hitler’s regime.
The Steins first encountered Corbusier through their mutual friend, artist Jaques Lipshitz. Corbusier had built his home, Cook House. Naturally, they were moving in the extended circle of artists, creatives and visionaries. The next time they met Corbu at the 1925 Pavilion de Esprit Nouveau at the Exposition des Artes Decorative in Paris the idea of choosing Corbusier to design a house for them moved a significant step closer. Corbusier had built a house for the exhibition. The venture was also encouraged by Gabrielle de Monzie, she was the former wife of politician and Minister of Housing, Anatole de Monzie. A part-owner, she lived there with the Steins’ until they all returned to the US in 1935.
The house which Corbu called Les Terraces is set back surrounded by gardens and terraces, entering the property via a long straight driveway gave the property a sense of grandeur. Today we clearly recognise features considered typically Corbusier later (a flat roof, raised up on pillars, living area and dining room on the first floor) is captured in the film, L’architecture d’aujord’hui and was the subject of an issue of L’architecture Vivante in 1929.
Many important artists of the interwar years visited the house including El Lissitzky, Man Ray and Mondrian.
Worth reading on the topic is Alice Friedman’s Women and the Making of the Modern House
17 Rue du Professeur Victor Prauchet,