LeDeuzzy, Q.
Emil Kaufmann

I believe in multiple choice
Three Revolutionary Architects, Boullee, Ledoux, and Lequeu

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Monument à la gloire de nombre d'hommes illustres

Monument to the sovereignty of the people

In the year IX Lequeu entered the competition for the erection of commemorative columns in the départements, and in the year XI he took part in another held in the Galérie d'Apollon in the Louvre.

The change of profession had not changed Lequeu. He retained the unbridled mind he had before. The dated designs of the seventeen-eighties and those of the seventeen-nineties are equally extravagant. This however is not true of his non-architectural drawings ranging from delicate Rococo pastels and animated studies after classical sculptures to intimate sketches from nature. They cannot be dealt with in this context; I am preparing a separate essay on them.

Among Lequeu's drawings is a copy of that poster of the year II in which Boullée, Le Roy, Ledoux, and the sculptor Dardel were violently attacked. The placard, addressed "Aux citoyens du concours"--the participants in a competition--informs us that the four artists were regarded as belonging to a group with reactionary aims, or, as the slanderer would make believe, to a faction. There is no indication that Lequeu was the author of the libel. His interest in it certainly was only due to the fact that it was directed against his former teacher Le Roy.

In 1801 Lequeu's application for another position met with success. He was appointed a cartographer in the Department of the Interior. First he worked on maps of Paris, and later in the Bureau of Statistics, on maps of the French Empire. In 1815 he projected a Mausoleum on the Place de la Concorde, in memory of the martyrs who had been beheaded there, including a bust of Louis XVI, and planned to embellish the Chamber of Deputies and the bridge leading to it. Still in thear he retired with a pension. Then began the last, tragic years of the aged artist. Want, frustration, and loneliness lay heavily on him, as we know from advertisements announcing the sale of his drawings. Two of these appeared in 1817, one in 1822, and one in 1824. He must have been forced to part with a good deal of his property. In 1817 he offered for sale ninety-three architectural drawings, besides maps, and his portrait, possibly the dated 1792, now forming the frontispiece of the first volume of his designs in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. The title page of this volume reads Architecture civile de Jean-Jacques Lequeu, and on the bottom, "Donné par lui-même à l'honneur de la Bibliothèque Royale." Lequeu never composed a continuous text, but added merely brief comments to the drawings. These, he asserts in the advertisement, were exhibited in the Louvre, though unfortunately they were not listed in the catalogs. In 1822 and 1824 he was anxiously concerned that not a single word of the textes he had composed for new advertisements should be omitted from print. In 1822 he wanted to sell also "eight or nine" plays he had written, one of which was Le faux Démétrius. It is pathetic to read of his fear that no one would be interested in the works of an unknown artist, and that some prospective buyer might not find where he lived, for his neighbors hardly knew him. A note probably written in his last years, is full of complaints about "injustices et ingratitudes." In another note he bitterly assails his colleagues, "acteurs d'intrigues, faiseurs d' architecture Parisienne." The design of his own tomb bears his portrait in relief, with the inscription "J. J. DE QUEUX." This unusual spelling, if it is not by another hand, reveals the artist's absent-mindedness; the caption, however, his life-long sufferings : Sépulchre de l'auteur, frère de Jésus; il a porté sa croix toute sa vie. One of his latest designs is the project of a Théâtre Royal, "Fait par J. J. Lequeu de Rouen, 1er Décembre 1814." Like the previous advertisements also that of 1824 had, we may say, fortunately, no success. For then Lequeu decided to donate all his drawings and a copy of the treatise on Chinese building by Chambers to the Royal Library, according to the latter's inventory of 1824. In or after this year Lequeu died. Yet even if he lived for several more years, there is no doubt that by 1824 his career as an artist had been long since finished.

Those frantic outbursts and the somewhat confused text of an undated note scribbled on a letterhead of the Ministere de l'Interieur with Année 181 (sic) might confirm one's first reaction to Lequeu's drawings, that he was abnormal from the beginning. Should we leave him to the psychologist and exclude him from art history ? It is not necessary to have recourse to the simple generalization that all artistic creation is beyond the that makes and marks every-day life. Rather should we refer to such great figures accepted by art history in spite of their deranged mental condition as El Greco, Borromini, Van Gogh. What counts is not whether abnormality is more or less manifest in their production but whether their presentations have the qualities of any normal work of art. We can find in Lequeu's drawings the same will to master form, the same trend toward abstraction, the same desire to express human feelings, and the same wish to enhance the "normal," or, the banal, as in any less eccentric achievement worthy to be considered art. The question whether he was sane in his early years can be answered by pointing out some characteristics of the designs. The handwriting is calligraphic, minute rather than extravagant. The comments are clear, most of them sober and technical. Later, he makes sarcastic remarks which prove sound reasoning. The attitude of his environment is likewise elucidating. Descamps, Soufflot, and Le Roy regarded him as a gifted student whom they liked to encourage and to assist. His patrons had similar opinions. Nor would be have been employed for twenty-two years in republican and imperial offices, had he not behaved like a normal person. Almost all of his known works originated before the end of his civil service career and long before the possible outbreak of insanity in his last years.

The latter was pleased with the extravagant composition and the drawing went on exhibition in the Salle de la liberte. Later, Lequeu wrote on the back of this life-saving drawing the remark, "Dessin pour me sauver de la guillotine" and the ironical comment, "Tout pour la patrie." In the same year II and the same place he exhibited also the project of the in Honor of Illustrious Men, to which he had added the timely verses: "Ne pleurons pas sur eux, n'accusons point Ie sort; C'est pour la liberté qu'ils ont bravé la mort."

However, the strictly anti­Revolutionary gloss on this drawing most certainly was written when there was no more risk in siding with the conservatives. It refers to the victims of the Terror, "Ce temps où on immolait des victimes humaines à la liberté." The patriotic plan of the year I, "Monument destiné à l'exercice de la Souveraineté du peuple" may just as well have been inspired by enthusiasm as by fear.

I believe that not a personal condition, but the general unrest of the period must account for his production in the first place. Lequeu's dream-architecture marks the end of the period at the beginning of which stand the architectural dreams of Le Geay. Though Lequeu wandered beyond the regular bounds, his fantasies are more than extravaganzas. They are works of art in which we recognize the man, and through which we apprehend the period. Building for patrons after classical canons must have been for Lequeu in his early years just as boring as delineating charts and maps in his advanced age. Classicism was the field in which the unoriginal, the minor spirits, felt at home. The independent minds strove to free themselves from the old heritage, in one way or another. They laid down their novel ideas in passionate words, or in ecstatic designs which must be looked upon as expressions of evolution. To measure their inventions by the standards of a perfected, stable style or tradition would be to misjudge their position and significance in the history of art. They are neither to be judged by any aesthetic canons of mature style, nor to be approached with any expectation of practical utility or even possibility. If ever there was such a thing as l'art pour l'art, we find it in the outbursts of the revolutionary architects. Unlike the artists at the end of the nineteenth century, they were not out to discover some novel art. They were less artificial than those who belonged to the art nouveau movement. Boullee, Ledoux, and Lequeu had to speak out because they were swayed by the emotions and the needs of the moment. The transition from a stabilized tradition to diametrically opposed goals brought about an uproar in any field. Contrary to other historians, art historians were not aware of the crisis of the close at the eighteenth century. They registered . . .     . . . see the seers. Like the heroic architecture of Boullée and the reform work of Ledoux, Lequeu's fantasies reflect the main trends of the period, its passion for grandeur, its will to innovation, and its yearning for the unheard-of.

The fact that Boullée's, Ledoux', and Lequeu's fantasies--at least part of them--originated long before the political revolution broke out gives one much to think. Let us remember that the dawn of the Renaissance came prior to the Reformation, the symptoms of the Baroque came earlier than the absolute monarchy, and art nouveau, with all its excitement, preceded the political cataclysm of the twentieth century. Architecture--the archcraft--allows men, when they build their sanctuaries or their homes, and still more when they merely dream of them, to express their yearnings long before they dare to reform their social institutions. Modern historians hold that . . .     . . . nineteenth and twentieth centuries originated about 1700. They became formative in architecture much earlier than in life. This is what the drawings of the revolutionaries make evident.

Drawing instruction - Methode de tracer

Monument to Athena

Chapel of the Emperor - Chapelle de l'un des quatre palais de I'Empereur

Lequeu's Work
In Lequeu's development one can distinguish three phases: As a youth he followed the main currents of the time . . .     . . . Neo-classicism; and shared the Romantic interest in medieval architecture. In his second phase his strong individuality began to assert itself with great intensity. Less bold than Ledoux, he availed himself almost exclusively of forms of the past and did not think of presenting undisguised geometrical shapes. But he transformed his models in the most daring and most unorthodox ways, and created designs unparalleled in architectural history. In his third and last stage, the impetuosity of youth is gone and with it the revolutionary enthusiasm. We cannot, of course, expect a clear demarcation line between each of these phases, but perhaps can say that he passed from the first stage to the second in the 1780's, and that the last stage began about 1800. In each phase there were high and low tides, moments in which he rose high above the fashions of the day and moments when he lagged behind; moments of ecstasy and moments of despondency. Even in his most fantastic designs he added sober instructions for the students. When, on the other hand, he wanted to explain some abstract subject, he presented his diagrams in an artistic form. For instance, a sheet for the instruction in light and shade has become, in his hand, a specimen of Romantic art full of vigorous contrasts.

Baroque and Classicism
The Monument to Athena which he conceived when still a student at Rouen in 1776, is typically late Baroque, or, Rococo in character. It is composed in sweeping curves and rich decoration. The frieze in high relief consists of a multitude of figures hiding almost completely the wall to which they are applied. Clouds efface the architectural lines of the upper part of the structure. There is much movement and plasticity in the design but there is no trace of the stern classicism which at that time already had become fashionable. The design might make a good model for a decorative piece in porcelain, but, if carried as an outdoor monument, the bulky substructure and the comparatively tiny figure of the goddess would hardly produce a pleasant effect.

Not much later the pompous, overdecorated chapel of Sainte-Genèvieve in the Emperor's Palace must have originated. Lequeu noted on the back that it was shown to Soufflot and the King.




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