Exhibition | Jean Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826)

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 18, 2018

Opening this December at the Petit Palais:

Jean Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826): Builder of Fantasy / Bâtisseur de fantasmes
Petit Palais, Paris, 11 December 2018 — 31 March 2019
Menil Drawing Institute, Houston, 4 October 2019 — 5 January 2020
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2020

Curated by Laurent Baridon, Jean-Philippe Garric, Martial Guédron, Corinne Le Bitouzé, and Christophe Leribault

Six months before he died impoverished and forgotten, Jean-Jacques Lequeu 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, who tried, with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, to rise socially and break free of the world of trades, Lequeu quickly became disenchanted with the new order and the new hierarchies. 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.


Laurent Baridon, Professor at University of Lyon II; Jean-Philippe Garric, Professor at University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne; Martial Guédron, Professor at the University of Strasbourg; Corinne Le Bitouzé, General Curator, Deputy Director of the Department of Prints and Photography at the French National Library; Christophe Leribault, Director of the Petit Palais

Laurent Baridon, et al., Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Batisseur de fantasmes (Paris: Norma, 2018), 176 pages, ISBN: 978-2376660217, $65.

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Note (added 2 January 2018) — The original posting did not include details for the catalogue.

Note (added 23 September 2019)The posting was updated to include information on the two U.S. venues: the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York.

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