JF Ptak Post 1124
The history of bad taste is like a history of bad food--you need them to tell you what's good. -- Imaginary quote of Hank Hill
I you look hard at some of the leading styles of architecture and design of the 1880-1920 periods, you will see elements of the work of the great visionary architect, Jean-Jacques Lequeu, The Rouen-born and Paris-educated Lequeu's major problem in this is that he was long dead in some forgotten place before any of this very-late recognition occurred. Too late for accolade, too late to brand his isolation as something other than bizarre (famous people doing the same sorts of things would be "quirky"), and of course too late to get patrons or backers or clients for him to actually be able to build something. Anything. He had a brilliant command of fancy and imagination, coupled what extreme senses of design and composition and material, and also how to make something constructed of all of that stuff stand up. And that's certainly the promise that he showed when he and his more public-centric work were in favor. But that was back before the Revolution--before the end of the American Revolution. Things happened, and Lequeu would spend four decades in high obscurity and low solitude.
He could've been just about anyone after this point, after his acceptable brilliance wore off: instead, he became a government worker/draftsman, lived in a series of small apartments, and finally wound up taking residence in a brothel room, where he created unequaled images of imaginary/inspired architecture. And between his scrambling for a government existence and creating vast Utopian cities and complexes and bizarre anthropomorphic structure, Lequeu might also have invented Bad Taste, being an early version of Charm City's own John Waters (sorry Mr. Waters, but you know its true). By virtue of his station in life, I think, Lequeu was exposed to many sides of French impolite and exploratory society which he managed to witness, and capture, and portray in a manner vastly uncommon to almost every other artist of his day.
I did want to concentrate just on Lequeu's self-portraits here, but I feel compelled to share at least a couple of Lequeu's fanciful and Columbian adventures into the world of Bad Taste--these are not by any means his great contribution to the history of art, nor do they come anywhere near his great architectural visions, but they are significant For example, while others (actually, everyone else) was exploring reclining nudes in one refined way or another, Lequeu explored the image from a different angle:
Not only is the model in an unusual position, and in front of a mirror, but her face and head are completely obscured. A lovely piece of technical gaudiness, this still was not a crowd-pleaser in 1815. Its not the only thing that Lequeu should be remembered for by any means....but it is something.
But on to Lequeu's fearless self-portraits:
I think that you've got to admire the guy for his out-loud living.
Notes and examples of Lequeu's architecture, below:
- Philippe Duboy. Lequeu : An Architectural Enigma. MIT Press; ASIN: 0262040867 (November 29, 1986)
- Emil Kaufmann. Three Revolutionary Architects: Boullée, Ledoux, and Lequeu. American Philosophical Society, 1952.
- Jean-Claude Lemagny. Visionary Architects: Boullée, Ledoux, Lequeu. Hennessey & Ingalls; (July 2002