Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: (August 29, 1780 - January 14, 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he thought of himself as a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was his portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.
Ingres was born in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, France, the first of seven children (five of whom survived infancy) of Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres (1755-1814) and his wife Anne Moulet (1758-1817). His father was a successful jack-of-all-trades in the arts, a painter of miniatures, sculptor, decorative stonemason, and amateur musician; his mother was the nearly illiterate daughter of a master wigmaker. From his father the young Ingres received early encouragement and instruction in drawing and music, and his first known drawing, a study after an antique cast, was made in 1789. Starting in 1786 he attended the local school, Ecole des Frères de l'Education Chrétienne, but his education was disrupted by the turmoil of the French Revolution, and the closing of the school in 1791 marked the end of his conventional education. The deficiency of his schooling would always remain for him a source of insecurity.
In 1791, Joseph Ingres took his son to Toulouse, where the young Jean Auguste Dominique was enrolled in the Académie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture. There he studied under the sculptor Jean-Pierre Vigan, the landscape painter Jean Briant, and—most importantly—the painter Joseph Roques, who imparted to the young artist his veneration of Raphael. Ingres's musical talent was further developed under the tutelage of the violinist Lejeune. From the ages of thirteen to sixteen he was second violinist in the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and he would continue to play the violin as an avocation for the rest of his life.
Having been awarded first prize in drawing by the Academy, in August 1797 he traveled to Paris to study with Jacques-Louis David, France's—and Europe's—leading painter during the revolutionary period, in whose studio he remained for four years. Ingres followed his master's neoclassical example but revealed, according to David, "a tendency toward exaggeration in his studies." He was admitted to the Painting Department of the École des Beaux-Arts in October 1799, and won, after tying for second place in 1800, the Grand Prix de Rome in 1801 for his Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the tent of Achilles. His trip to Rome, however, was postponed until 1806, when the financially strained government finally appropriated the travel funds.
Working in Paris alongside several other students of David in a studio provided by the state, he further developed a style that emphasized purity of contour. He found inspiration in the works of Raphael, in Etruscan vase paintings, and in the outline engravings of the English artist John Flaxman. In 1802 he made his debut at the Salon with a Portrait of a Woman (current whereabouts unknown). The following year brought a prestigious commission, when Ingres was one of five artists selected (along with Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Robert Lefévre, Charles Meynier, and Marie-Guillemine Benoist) to paint full-length portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul. These were to be distributed to the prefectural towns of Liège, Anvers, Dunkerque, Brussels, and Gand, all of which were newly ceded to France in the Treaty of Lunéville of 1801.
In the summer of 1806 Ingres became engaged to Marie-Anne-Julie Forestier, a painter and musician, before leaving for Rome in September. Although he had hoped to stay in Paris long enough to witness the opening of that year's Salon, in which he was to display several works, he reluctantly left for Italy just days before the opening. At the Salon, his paintings—Self-Portrait, portraits of the Rivière family, and Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne—produced a disturbing impression on the public, due not only to Ingres's stylistic idiosyncrasies but also for the implications of his adoption of Carolingian imagery in representing Napoleon. David delivered a severe judgement, and the critics were uniformly hostile, finding fault with the strange discordances of colour, the want of sculptural relief, the chilly precision of contour, and the self-consciously archaic quality. Chaussard (Le Pausanias Français, 1806) condemned Ingres's style as gothic and asked:
How, with so much talent, a line so flawless, an attention to detail so thorough, has M. Ingres succeeded in painting a bad picture? The answer is that he wanted to do something singular, something extraordinary.... M. Ingres's intention is nothing less than to make art regress by four centuries, to carry us back to its infancy, to revive the manner of Jean de Bruges.
As art historian Marjorie Cohn has written: "At the time, art history as a scholarly enquiry was brand new. Artists and critics outdid each other in their attempts to identify, interpret, and exploit what they were just beginning to perceive as historical stylistic developments." The Louvre, newly filled with booty seized by Napoleon in his campaigns in Belgium, Holland, and Italy, provided French artists of the early nineteenth century with an unprecedented opportunity to study, compare, and copy masterworks from antiquity and from the entire history of European painting. From the beginning of his career, Ingres freely borrowed from earlier art, adopting the historical style appropriate to his subject, leading critics to charge him with plundering the past.
Newly arrived in Rome, Ingres read with mounting indignation the relentlessly negative press clippings sent to him from Paris by his friends. In letters to his prospective father-in-law he expressed his outrage at the critics; "So the Salon is the scene of my disgrace;...The scoundrels, they waited until I was away to assassinate my reputation....I have never been so unhappy." He vowed never again to exhibit at the Salon, and his refusal to return to Paris led to the breaking up of his engagement. Julie Forestier, when asked years later why she had never married, responded, "When one has had the honor of being engaged to M. Ingres, one does not marry."
Installed in a studio on the grounds of the Villa Medici, Ingres continued his studies and, as required of every winner of the Prix, he sent works at regular intervals to Paris so his progress could be judged. As his envoi of 1808 Ingres sent Oedipus and the Sphinx and the Valpinçon Bather (both now in the Louvre), hoping by these two paintings to demonstrate his mastery of the male and female nude, but they were poorly received. In later years Ingres painted variants of both compositions; another nude begun in 1807, the Venus Anadyomene, remained in an unfinished state for decades, to be completed forty years later and finally exhibited in 1855.
He produced numerous portraits during this period: Madame Duvauçay, François-Marius Granet, Edme-François-Joseph Bochet, Madame Panckoucke, and that of Madame la Comtesse de Tournon, mother of the prefect of the department of the Tiber. In 1810 Ingres's pension at the Villa Medici ended, but he decided to stay in Rome and seek patronage from the French occupation government.
In 1811 Ingres finished his final student exercise, the immense Jupiter and Thetis, which was once again harshly judged in Paris. Ingres was stung; the public was indifferent, and the strict classicists among his fellow artists looked upon him as a renegade. Only Eugène Delacroix and other pupils of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin—the leaders of that romantic movement for which Ingres throughout his long life always expressed the deepest abhorrence—seem to have recognized his merits.
Although facing uncertain prospects, in 1813 Ingres married a young woman, Madeleine Chapelle, who had been recommended to him by her friends in Rome. After a courtship carried out through correspondence, he proposed to her without having met her, and she accepted. Their marriage was a happy one, and Madame Ingres acquired a faith in her husband which enabled her to combat with courage and patience the difficulties of their common existence. He continued to suffer the indignity of disparaging reviews, as Don Pedro of Toledo Kissing the Sword of Henry IV, Raphael and the Fornarina (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University), several portraits, and the Interior of the Sistine Chapel met a generally hostile critical response at the Paris Salon of 1814.
A few important commissions came to him; the French governor of Rome asked him to paint Virgil reading the Aeneid (1812) for his residence, and to paint two colossal works—Romulus's victory over Acron (1812) and The Dream of Ossian (1813)—for Monte Cavallo, a former Papal residence undergoing renovation to become Napoleon's Roman palace. These paintings epitomized, both in subject and scale, the type of painting with which Ingres was determined to make his reputation, but, as Philip Conisbee has pointed out, "for all the high ideals that had been drummed into Ingres at the academies in Toulouse, Paris, and Rome, such commissions were exceptions to the rule, for in reality there was little demand for history paintings in the grand manner, even in the city of Raphael and Michelangelo." Art collectors preferred "light-hearted mythologies, recognizable scenes of everyday life, landscapes, still lifes, or likenesses of men and women of their own class. This preference persisted throughout the nineteenth century, as academically oriented artists waited and hoped for the patronage of state or church to satisfy their more elevated ambitions."
Ingres traveled to Naples in the spring of 1814 to paint Queen Caroline Murat, and the Murat family ordered additional portraits as well as three modestly-scaled works: The Betrothal of Raphael, the Grande Odalisque, and Paolo and Francesca. He never received payment for these paintings, however, due to the collapse of the Murat regime in 1815; with the fall of Napoleon's dynasty, he found himself essentially stranded in Rome without patronage.
During this low point of his career, Ingres was forced to depend for his livelihood on the execution, in pencil, of small portrait drawings of the many tourists, in particular the English, passing through postwar Rome. For an artist who aspired to a reputation as a history painter, this seemed menial work, and to the visitors who knocked on his door asking, "Is this where the man who draws the little portraits lives?", he would answer with irritation, "No, the man who lives here is a painter!" Nevertheless, the portrait drawings he produced in such profusion during this period are of outstanding quality, and rank today among his most admired works.
Mining the vein of the small-scale historical genre piece, in 1815 he painted Aretino and the Envoy of Charles V as well as Aretino and Tintoretto, an anecdotal painting whose subject, a painter brandishing a pistol at his critic, may have been especially satisfying to the embattled Ingres. In 1817 he painted Henry IV Playing with His Children, and in the following year the Death of Leonardo. In 1817 the Comte de Blacas, who was ambassador of France to the Holy See, provided Ingres with his first official commission since 1814, for a painting of Christ Giving the Keys to Peter. Completed in 1820, this imposing work was well-received in Rome but to the artist's chagrin the ecclesiastical authorities there would not permit it to be sent to Paris for exhibition.
A commission came in 1816 or 1817 from the family of the celebrated Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alva, for a painting of the Duke receiving papal honors for his repression of the Protestant Reformation. Ingres, despite his distaste for the subject and his loathing for the man he described as "cet horrible homme", made sketches for this project which reveal his attempt to fulfill the commission while conveying his disapproval. Finally he abandoned the task and entered in his diary, "J'etais forcé par la necessité de peindre un pareil tableau; Dieu a voulu qu'il reste en ebauche." ("I was forced by need to paint such a painting; God wanted it to remain a sketch.")
The works he sent to the 1819 Salon were La Grande Odalisque, Philip V and the Marshal of Berwick, and Roger Freeing Angelica, which were once again attacked as "gothic".
Ingres and his wife moved to Florence in 1820 at the urging of the Florentine sculptor Bartolini, an old friend from his years in Paris, who hoped that Ingres would improve his position materially, but Ingres, as before, had to rely on his drawings of tourists and diplomats for support. His friendship with Bartolini, whose worldly success in the intervening years stood in sharp contrast to Ingres's poverty, quickly became strained, and Ingres found new quarters. In 1821 he finished a painting commissioned by a childhood friend, Monsieur de Pastoret, the Entry of Charles V into Paris; de Pastoret also ordered a portrait of himself and a religious work (Virgin with the Blue Veil). The major undertaking of this period, however, was a commission obtained in August 1820 with the help of de Pastoret, to paint the Vow of Louis XIII for the Cathedral of Montauban. Recognizing this as an opportunity to establish himself as a painter of history, he spent four diligent years bringing the large canvas to completion, and he travelled to Paris with it in October of 1824.
The Vow of Louis XIII, exhibited at the Salon of 1824, finally brought Ingres critical success. Conceived in a Raphaelesque style relatively free of the archaisms for which he had been reproached in the past, it was admired even by strict Davidians. Ingres found himself celebrated throughout France; in January 1825 he was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor, and in June 1825 he was elected to the Institute. His fame was extended further in 1826 by the publication of Sudre's lithograph of La Grande Odalisque, which, having been scorned by artists and critics alike in 1819, now became widely popular.
A commission from the government called forth the monumental Apotheosis of Homer, which Ingres eagerly finished in a year's time. From 1826 to 1834 the studio of Ingres was thronged, and he was a recognized chef d'école who taught with authority and wisdom while working steadily. The critics came to regard Ingres as the standard-bearer of classicism against the romantic school—a role he relished. The paintings, primarily portraits, that he sent to the Salon in 1827 and 1833 were well received. The portrait of Louis-François Bertin (1832) was a particular success with the public, who found its realism spellbinding, although some of the critics found its naturalism vulgar and its coloring drab.
The thin-skinned artist was outraged, however, by the criticism of his ambitious canvas of the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien (cathedral of Autun), shown in the Salon of 1834. Resentful and disgusted, Ingres resolved never again to work for the public, and gladly availed himself of the opportunity to return to Rome, as director of the École de France, in the room of Horace Vernet. There, although the time he spent in administrative duties slowed the flow of paintings from his brush, he executed Antiochus and Stratonice (executed for Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orléans), Portrait of Luigi Cherubini, and the Odalisque with Slave, among other works.
The Stratonice, exhibited at the Palais Royal for several days after its arrival in France, produced so favourable an impression that, on his return to Paris in 1841, Ingres was received with all the deference that he felt was his due. One of the first works executed after his return was a portrait of the duc d'Orléans, whose death in a carriage accident just weeks after the completion of the portrait sent the nation into mourning and led to orders for additional copies of the portrait.
Ingres shortly afterward began the decorations of the great hall in the Chateau de Dampierre. These murals, the Golden Age and the Iron Age, were begun in 1843 with an ardour which gradually slackened until Ingres, devastated by the loss of his wife on July 27, 1849, abandoned all hope of their completion and the contract with the Duc de Luynes was finally cancelled. A minor work, Jupiter and Antiope, dates from 1851; in July of that year he announced a gift of his artwork to his native city of Montauban, and in October he resigned as professor at the École des Beaux-Arts.
The following year Ingres, at seventy-one years of age, married forty-three-year-old Delphine Ramel, a relative of his friend Marcotte d'Argenteuil. This marriage proved as happy as his first, and in the decade that followed Ingres completed several significant works. A major undertaking was the Apotheosis of Napoleon I, painted in 1853 for the ceiling of a hall in the Hotel de Ville, Paris and destroyed by fire in the Commune of 1871. The portrait of Princesse Albert de Broglie was also completed in 1853, Joan of Arc (largely the work of assistants) appeared in 1854, and in 1855 Ingres consented to rescind his resolution, more or less strictly kept since 1834, in favour of the International Exhibition, where a room was reserved for his works.
Napoléon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, president of the jury, proposed an exceptional recompense for their author, and obtained from emperor Napoleon III of France Ingres's nomination as grand officer of the Legion of Honour.
With renewed confidence Ingres now took up and completed one of his most charming productions, The Spring, a figure for which he had painted the torso in 1823; when seen with other works in London in 1862, admiration for his works was renewed, and he was given the title of senator by the imperial government.
After the completion of The Spring, Ingres produced paintings of historical genre, such as two versions of Louis XIV and Molière, (1857 and 1860), as well as several religious works in which the figure of the Virgin from The Vow of Louis XIII is reprised: The Virgin of the Adoption of 1858 (painted for Mademoiselle Roland-Gosselin) was followed by The Virgin Crowned (painted for Madame la Baronne de Larinthie) and The Virgin with Child. In 1859 he produced repetitions of The Virgin of the Host, and in 1862 he completed Christ and the Doctors, a work commissioned many years before by Queen Marie Amalie for the chapel of Bizy.
The last of his important portrait paintings date from this period: Marie-Clothilde-Inés de Foucauld, Madame Moitessier, Seated (1856), Self-Portrait at the Age of Seventy-nine and Madame J.-A.-D. Ingres, née Delphine Ramel, both completed in 1859. The Turkish Bath, finished in a rectangular format in 1859, was revised in 1860 before being turned into a tondo. Ingres signed and dated it in 1862, although he made additional revisions in 1863.
Ingres died of pneumonia on January 17, 1867, at the age of eighty-six, having preserved his faculties to the last. He is interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. The contents of his studio, including a number of major paintings, over 4000 drawings, and his violin, were bequeathed by the artist to the city museum of Montauban, now known as the Musée Ingres.
Ingres's style was formed early in life and changed comparatively little. His earliest drawings, such as the Portrait of a Man (July 3, 1797, now in the Louvre) already show a suavity of outline and an extraordinary control of the parallel hatchings which model the forms. From the first, his paintings are characterized by a firmness of outline reflecting his often-quoted conviction that "drawing is the probity of art". He believed color to be no more than an accessory to drawing, explaining: "Drawing is not just reproducing contours, it is not just the line; drawing is also the expression, the inner form, the composition, the modelling. See what is left after that. Drawing is seven eighths of what makes up painting."
He abhorred the visible brushstroke and made no recourse to the shifting effects of colour and light on which the Romantic school depended; he preferred local colours only faintly modelled in light by half tones. "Ce que l'on sait," he would repeat, "il faut le savoir l'épée à la main." ("This is what I know: one must know the sword in the hand.") Ingres thus left himself without the means of producing the necessary unity of effect when dealing with crowded compositions, such as the Apotheosis of Homer and the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien. Among Ingres's historical and mythological paintings, the most satisfactory are usually those depicting one or two figures. In Oedipus, Half-Length Bather, Odalisque, and The Spring, subjects only animated by the consciousness of perfect physical well-being, we find Ingres at his best. The Spring, although dated 1856, was painted in 1821, except for the head and the extremities; those who knew the work in its incomplete state professed that the after-painting, necessary to fuse new and old, lacked the vigour and precision of touch that distinguished the original execution of the torso.
In Roger Freeing Angelica, the female figure shows the finest qualities of Ingres's work, while the effigy of Roger flying to the rescue on his hippogriff sounds a jarring note, for Ingres was rarely successful in the depiction of movement and drama. As Sanford Schwartz has noted, the "historical, mythological, and religious pictures bespeak huge amounts of energy and industry, but, conveying little palpable sense of inner tension, are costume dramas....The faces in the history pictures are essentially those of models waiting for the session to be over. When an emotion is to be expressed, it comes across stridently, or woodenly."
By the time of Ingres's retrospective at the Exposition Universelle in 1855, an emerging consensus viewed his portrait paintings as his masterpieces. Their consistently high quality belies Ingres's often-stated complaint that the demands of portraiture robbed him of time he could have spent painting historical subjects. The most famous of all of Ingres's portraits, depicting the journalist Louis-François Bertin, quickly became a symbol of the rising economic and political power of the bourgeoisie. His portraits of women range from the warmly sensuous Madame de Senonnes (1814) to the realistic Mademoiselle Jeanne Gonin (1821), the Junoesque Marie-Clothilde-Inés de Foucauld, Madame Moitessier (portrayed standing and seated, 1851 and 1856), and the chilly Joséphine-Eléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn, Princesse de Broglie (1853).
His portrait drawings, of which about 450 are extant, are today among his most admired works. While a disproportionate number of them date from his difficult early years in Italy, he continued to produce portrait drawings of his friends until the end of his life. Agnes Mongan has written of the portrait drawings:
Before his departure in the fall of 1806 from Paris for Rome, the familiar characteristics of his drawing style were well established, the delicate yet firm contour, the definite yet discreet distortions of form, the almost uncanny capacity to seize a likeness in the precise yet lively delineation of features.
The preferred materials were also already established: the sharply pointed graphite pencil on a smooth white paper. So familiar to us are both the materials and the manner that we forget how extraordinary they must have seemed at the time....Ingres' manner of drawing was as new as the century. It was immediately recognized as expert and admirable. If his paintings were sternly criticized as "Gothic," no comparable criticism was leveled at his drawings.
His student Robert Balze described Ingres's working routine in executing his portrait drawings, each of which required four hours, as "an hour and a half in the morning, then two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, he very rarely retouched it the next day. He often told me that he got the essence of the portrait while lunching with the model who, off guard, became more natural." Ingres drew his portrait drawings on wove paper, which provided a smooth surface very different from the ribbed surface of laid paper (which is, nevertheless, sometimes referred to today as "Ingres paper").
Drawings made in preparation for paintings, such as the many nude studies for The Martyrdom of St. Symphorien and The Golden Age, are more varied in size and treatment than are the portrait drawings. He also drew a number of landscape views while in Rome but, with the exception of the small tondo Raphael's Casino (two other small tondos are of questionable attribution), he painted no pure landscapes.
Ingres was regarded as an effective teacher and was beloved by his students. The best known of them is Théodore Chassériau, who studied with him from 1830, as a precocious eleven-year-old, until Ingres closed his studio in 1834 to return to Rome. Ingres considered Chassériau his truest disciple, declaring: "Come, gentlemen, come see, this child will be the Napoleon of painting." By the time Chassériau visited Ingres in Rome in 1840, however, the younger artist's growing allegiance to the romantic style of Delacroix was apparent, leading Ingres to disown his favorite student, of whom he never again spoke favorably. No other artist who studied under Ingres succeeded in establishing a strong identity; among the most notable of them were Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, Henri Lehmann, and Eugène Emmanuel Amaury-Duval.
Ingres's influence on later generations of artists has been considerable. His most significant heir was Degas, whose teacher Louis Lamothe was a minor disciple of Ingres. In the twentieth century, Picasso and Matisse were among those who acknowledged a debt to the great classicist. Pierre Barousse, the Keeper of the Musée Ingres, has written:
The case of Ingres is certainly disturbing when one realizes in how many ways a variety of artists claim him as their master, from the most plainly conventional of the nineteenth century such as Cabanel or Bouguereau, to the most revolutionary of our century from Matisse to Picasso. A classicist? Above all, he was moved by the impulse to penetrate the secret of natural beauty and to reinterpret it through its own means; an attitude fundamentally different to that of David. ... there results a truly personal and unique art admired as much by the Cubists for its plastic autonomy, as by the Surrealists for its visionary qualities.
Barnett Newman credited Ingres as a progenitor of abstract expressionism, explaining: "That guy was an abstract painter ....He looked at the canvas more often than at the model. Kline, de Kooning—none of us would have existed without him."