• 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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