Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect. Drawings from the Bibliothèque nationale de France

January 31 through September 13, 2020

Six months before he died in poverty and obscurity, architect and draftsman Jean‐Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826) donated one more than 800 drawings, one of the most singular and fascinating graphic oeuvres of his time, to the French Royal Library. They remained there, in the institution that would become the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF). The Morgan Library & Museum is proud to be the first institution in New York City to present a selection of these works. Some sixty of these works, the best of Lequeu’s several hundred drawings, are now on view in Jean‐Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect, the first museum retrospective to bring significant public and scholarly attention to one of the most imaginative architects of the Enlightenment.

Lequeu’s meticulous drawings in pen and wash include highly detailed renderings of buildings and imaginary monuments populating invented landscapes. His mission was to see and describe everything systematically—from the animal to the organic, from erotic fantasy to his own visage. Solitary and obsessive, he created the fantastic worlds shown in his drawings without ever leaving his studio, and enriched them with characters and stories drawn from his library.

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Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect is organized by the Morgan Library & Museum and the Bibiliothèque nationale de France with the cooperation of Paris Musées.

The exhibition was presented at the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, from 11 December 2018 to 31 March 2019. Exhibition curators were Corinne Le Bitouzé and Christophe Leribault and scientific collaborators were Laurent Baridon, Jean-Philippe Garric, and Martial Guédron. The curator of the exhibition at the Morgan is Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints.

The exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, an anonymous donor, the Alex Gordon Fund for Exhibitions, and Aso O. Tavitian, with assistance from Robert Dance and Hubert and Mireille Goldschmidt.

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Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757–1826), The Great Yawner, n.d. Pen and black ink, brown wash, and red chalk. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Estampes et de la photographie.

Selected images