- INGRES, Jean Auguste Dominique
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- Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was born at Montauban.
His father, a mediocre artist, recognized his son's abilities and sent him to
Toulouse Academy (1791) and on to David in Paris in 1797. He won the
Prix de Rome in 1801 with the Ambassadors of Agamemnon, which was praised
by Flaxman, who had a great influence on him. He earned a living by portraits
until 1806, when he finally went to Italy intending to stay three or four years
and remaining eighteen. His Riviere family portraits (1805: Louvre), with their
stress on sinuous line forming a silhouette that both contains and explains the
form, established a type that he developed and perfected, but hardly modified.
Works sent back from Rome were bitterly criticized, and the fall of Napoleon
forced him to seek a precarious livelihood making pencil drawings of visitors
to Rome. In 1820 he settled in Florence and completed the Vow of Louis XIII,
commissioned for Montauban Cathedral (still there) and exhibited in the 1824
Salon with enormous success. This work placed him in the front rank and
established him as the official opponent of the ideas expressed by Delacroix,
and the main prop of a rigid classicism in opposition to the Romantic movement.
While his main works were portraits — which he professed to dislike, and in
which he both influenced and was influenced by the earliest photographs — he
also painted subject pictures and poeticized Oriental scenes providing an excuse
for voluptuous nudes. His wall-paintings were not happy; the Golden Age
(1842-9) in the Chateau de Dampierre, which replaced the decoration by
Gleyre, was abandoned and has deteriorated, leaving only the superb nude
studies made for it.
In 1834 he returned to Rome as Director of the French
Academy, having applied for the position in a fit of pique over the bad reception
accorded his Martyrdom of St Symphorian (Autun Cath.) — perhaps the first of
his religious paintings which justify the epithet of bondieusene. The fuss
over the St Symphorian gave contemporary critics the chance to comment
unfavourably on his 'history' pictures, which were said to be frigid, repetitive
and unimaginative. After his return to Paris in 1841, his intransigent opposition
to any ideas but his own, backed by his academic standing, gave him an influence
which he used blindly against Delacroix, and also against younger rebels
opposing what had become in the hands of his imitators, entrenched in mediocrity, a stereotyped academicism. His own style hardly changed, and to the end
he pursued his piercingly exact vision, his sinuous line, and his worship of
Raphael, while his deliberately charmless handling stresses his supreme draughtsmanship.
He said, 'Drawing is the probity of art,' and, 'Drawing includes
everything except the tint'; opposed views were those of Theophile Sylvestre:
'. . . he is a Chinese painter lost . . . amid the ruins of Athens' and Delacroix's
'His art is the complete expression of an incomplete intelligence.' He became
a Member of the Institute in 1825, and Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour
in 1855, and a Senator in 1862. None of his many pupils except Chasseriau
achieved lasting reputation: his real continuator was Degas.
There is a large Musee Ingres at Montauban and other works are in Aix-en-Provence, Algiers, Antwerp, Baltimore, Bayonne, Brussels, Cambridge Mass.
(Fogg), Chantilly, Cincinnati, Florence (Uffizi), Hartford Conn., Kansas City,
Liege, London (NG, V&A), Lyons, Montpellier, Northampton Mass., New
York (Met. Mus., Frick Coll.), Paris (Mus. d'Orsay, Camavalet, Invalides),
Philadelphia, Rouen, Stockholm, Toulouse, Versailles and Washington (NG).
- Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)
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