[For another bit on Boullee see also my post Imago Frammeni: Boulle, the Dogon, Jouffret, the Simple and the Complex]
I guess it is easy to want to call M. Lequeu (1757-1825 (?)) an outsider, though he was hardly that.
He was an exceptional talent who was exceptionally well-trained (and who won the highest awards offered by his school), and started out in a staid and brilliant way, a successful draftsman in his own right, and student of Scoufflot, helping to design ancient-inspiration buildings for the super rich. He was at the pinnacle of the drafting trade, though not so on the designing end. Along came the Revolution and away went his architectural career—he wound up a surveyor and a cartographer until his retirement in 1815, after which he enters social and historical oblivion, until he finally dies in total obscurity ten years later (or so, the date is unclear). His post-revolutionary vision was as phenomenal as his success in selling his ideas were dismal. Well, this is really a cheap shot—his imagination was shockingly large, enormous, his designs fantastic and beautiful, and completely unexpected, and they seemed to grow larger/loftier and more interesting as time wore away at him. But he was far in front of the curve so far as popular (public) opinion was concerned. Even among the other visionaries of the time (like Ledoux and Boullee) it was Lequeu who staked out the furthest reaches of architecture, and also with great depth and virtuosity.
I think that as Lequeu was cleaved away, cell by cell falling through the floorboards of his single rented room, he reached further into time and deeper into space than almost any architect of that hundred-year period. I also think that he was very well aware of his genius being seen as pure eccentricity—his half-dozen or so self portraits are among the most reaching that I’ve seen (in the pre-modern era).
If Lequeu’s visions existed at all in the world of French architecture it was in the Deep Underground—a place that he may have founded. He was certainly, at the very least, its geologist.
His self portraits are striking, but perhaps not so much more so than those by Rembrandt--he was certainly exploring modes of expression (Raphael's series of engravings on the emotion of the human face is a good example of this study)--Lequeu though seems to always manage to suggest that he is an observed inmate somewhere. There is a great undercurrent of "otherness" and great remove to them--something that makes places the self portraits into a different--empty, lonely--class.
(2) Etienne Boullee, Images with Music
I've been collecting images by some of the great, visionary architects of 18th century France: Etienne Boullee (1728-1799), Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806) and the semi-impossible Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1737-1825). It was a tough time for these architects to see far into the future at the time of the Revolution, as people who were even less deserving than these men lost their heads. In any event I've compiled a short three minute video exhibiting some of their works, using the music of Wim Mertens for Peter Greenaway's love poem to M. Boullee called The Belly of an Architect. I couldn't but help using this music in this context, sorry to say--it just goes perfectly with these images. (Also, I've written about M. Ledoux here.)