Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Bâtisseur de fantasmes
Laurent Baridon, Jean-Philippe Garric, Martial Guédron, Corinne Le Bitouzé
Petit Palais, Bibliothque Nationale de France & Éditions Norma, 2018
Six months before he died in poverty and forgotten, Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826) donated one of the most singular and fascinating graphic oeuvres of his time to the French National Library. The set of several hundred drawings presented here in its entirety for the first time, is a testimonial to the solitary and obsessive downward spiral of an exceptional artist that goes well beyond the first steps of an architectural career. Using the precise technical tool represented by the geometric working drawing made in wash, which he filled with handwritten notes, Lequeu scrupulously described the monuments and imaginary factories that filled his imaginary landscapes, rather than carrying out projects. But this initiatory journey, which he made without leaving his studio and enriched with figures and narratives from his library, this pathway that led him from temple to bush, from artificial grotto to palace, from kiosk to subterranean labyrinth, resolved itself as a quest to find himself. To see everything and describe it all, systematically, from the animal to the organic, from fantasy and raw sex to the self portrait, became the mission he assigned to himself. As a typical representative of the artisanal class that tried, with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, to rise socially and break free of the world of trades, but quickly became disenchanted when the new order and new hierarchies were built, Lequeu, the child of his century, the century of licentiousness and Anglo-Chinese gardens, nevertheless pursued an entirely free and singular path. Reduced to employment in a subordinate office, ignored by those in place, now far from his roots, but freed of social or academic pressure, he stalked his dreams with the obstinacy of a builder and without compromise.