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Etienne Louis Boullée (1728–1799)
Interior of a Library
Pen and black and some brown ink, gray wash, over faint traces of black chalk; compass point at center; ruled borders in pen and black ink at outer margin and framing design area
15 7/8 x 25 5/8 inches (420 x 653 mm)
Thaw Collection
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Since most of his commissioned architectural works are no longer extant, Boullée is best known for a group of a hundred imaginative and rather grandiose designs that he left to the Bibliothèque nationale, Paris. Although he was commissioned to expand the royal library in 1780, his designs were never realized. In his treatise, Boullée explained that he was transforming "a . . . courtyard . . . into an immense [amphitheater-like] basilica lighted from above . . . [with] attendants spread about so that they could pass the books" from tier to tier. In brilliant, large-scale designs, such as the present example, he went beyond Neoclassicism to the visionary—even futuristic—clarity for which his work is now so admired.

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The programs of The Morgan Library & Museum are made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

Background images: Photography by Todd Eberle unless otherwise noted. © 2006 Todd Eberle.