A Poetry Grounded in Gravity and Air
‘Henri Labrouste,’ at the Museum of Modern Art
by Michael Kimmelman
“Henri Labrouste: Structure Brought to Light,” at the Museum of Modern Art, is elegant and astringent, like Labrouste’s work. The name may not ring a bell, but don’t let that stop you from seeing the show. It is gorgeous.
Labrouste died in 1875, at 74, having left behind two of the great buildings of the 19th century, the Bibliothèque Ste.-Geneviève and the Bibliothèque Nationale, miracles of stone, iron and glass construction. I found it instructive to hear a historian, in a video accompanying the show, recall growing up like most French intellectuals during the 1950s and ’60s and lumping Labrouste in with all the other unfashionable detritus of 19th-century bourgeois culture. “Good” architectural taste skipped over the 1800s.