1902 Encyclopedia > Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
French painter
(1780-1867)




JEAN AUGUSTE DOMINIQUE INGRES (1780-1867), whose name represents one of the most important among the conflicting tendencies of modern art, was born at Montauban August 29,1780. His father, for whom he always entertained the most tender and respectful affection, has described himself as sculpteur en plâtre; he was, however, equally ready to execute every other kind of decorative work, and now and again eked out his living by taking portraits, or obtained an engagement as a violin player. He brought up his son to command the same varied resources, but in consequence of certain early successes -- the lad’s performance of a concerto to Viotti’s was applauded at the theatre of Toulouse -- his attention was directed chiefly to the study of music. At Toulouse, to which place his father had removed from Montauban in 1792, Ingres had, however, received lessons form Joseph Roques, a painter, whom he quitted at the end of a few months to become a pupil of M. Vigan, professor at the academy of fine arts in the same town. From M. Vigan, Ingres, whose vocation became day by day more distinctly evident, passed to M. Briant, a landscape-painter who insisted that his pupil was specially gifted by nature to follow the same line as himself. For a while Ingres obeyed, but he had been thoroughly aroused and enlightened as to his own objects and desires by the sight of a copy of Raphael’s Madonna della Sedia, and, having decisively ended his connexion with Briant, he started for Paris, where he arrived about the close of 1796.

He was then admitted to the studio of David, for whose lofty standard and severe principles he always retained a profound appreciation. David recognized the merit of one who soon ranked amongst his most promising pupils, and Ingres, after four years of devoted study, in the course of which (1800) he obtained the second place in the yearly competition, finally carried off the Grand Prix (1801). The work thus rewarded -- the Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the Tent of Achilles (École des Beaux Arts) -- was admired by Flaxman so much as to give umbrage to David, and was succeeded in the following year (1802) by the execution of a Girl after Bathing, and a woman’s portrait ; in 1804 Ingres exhibited Portrait of the First Consul (Musée de Liége), and portraits of his father and himself ; these were followed in 1806 by Portrait of the Emperor (Invalides), and portraits of M., Mme., and Mdlle. Rivière (the first two now in the Louvre).

All these and various minor works were executed in Paris, for it was not until 1809 that the state of public affairs admitted of the re-establishment of the Academy of France at Rome, and we find from the journals of the day that they produced a disturbing impression on the public. It was clear that the artist was some one who must be counted with; his talent, the purity of his line, and his power of literal rendering were generally acknowledged ; but he was reproached with a desire to be singular and extraordinary. "Ingres," writes Frau von Hastfer (Leben und Kunst in Paris, 1806) "wird nach Italian gehen, und dort wird er vielleicht vergessen das er zu etwas Grossem geboren ist, und wird eben darum ein hohes Ziel erreichen." In this spirit, also, Chaussard violently attacked his Portrait of the Emperor (Pausanias Francais, 1806), nor did the portraits of the Rivière family escape. The points on which Chaussard justly lays stress are the strange discordances of colour, -- such as the blue of the cushion against which Mme. Rivière leans, and the want of the grasp of his subject as a whole, shown in the portraits of both husband and wife, which already evidences the strength and sincerity of the passionless point of view which marks all Ingres’s best productions.

The very year after his arrival in Rome (1808) Ingres produced Oedipus and the Sphinx (Louvre; lithographed by Sudre, engraved by Gaillard), a work which proved him in the full possession of his mature powers, and began the Venus Anadyomene (Collection Rieset ; engraving begun by Pollet), completed forty years later, and exhibited in 1855.

These works were followed by some of his best portraits, that of M. Bochet (Louvre), and that of Mme. La Comtesse de Tournon, mother of the perfect of the department of the Tiber; in 1811 he finished Jupiter and Thetis, an immense canvas now in the Musée of Aix; in 1812 Romulus and Acron (École des Beaux Arts), and Virgil reading the Aeneid -- a composition very different form he version of its which has become widely popular through the engraving executed by Pradier in 1832.

Grand Odalisque (Ingres) image

La Grande Odalisque
1814. Oil on canvas.
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres



The original work, executed for a bedchamber in the Villa Aldobrandini-Miollis, contained neither the figures of Maecenas and Agrippa nor the statue of Marcellus ; and Ingres, who had obtained possession of it during his second stay in Rome, intended to complete it with the additions made for engraving. But he never got beyond the stage of preparation, and the picture left by him, together with various other studies and sketches, to the Musée of his native town, remains half destroyed by the process meant for its regeneration. The Virgil was followed by the Betrothal of Raphael, a small painting, now lost, executed for Queen Caroline of Naples; Don Pedro of Toledo Kissing the Sword of Henry IV. (Collection Deymié; Montauban), exhibited at the Salon of 1814, together with the Chapelle Sistine (Collection Legenti ; lithographed by Sudre), and the Grande Odalisque (Collection Seillière; lithographed by Sudre).

In 1815 Ingres executed Raphael and the Fornarina (Collection Mme. N. de Rothschild; engraved by Pradier); in 1816 Aretin and the Envoy of Charles V. (Collection Schroth), and Aretin and Tintoret (Collection Schroth); in 1817 the Death of Leonardo (engraved by Richomme) and Henry IV. Playing with his Children (engraved by Richomme), both of which works were commissions from M. le Comte de Blacas, then ambassador or France at the Vatican. Roger and Angelique (Louvre; lithorgraphed by Sudre), and Francesca di Rimmi (Musée of Angers; lithographed by Aubry Lecomte), were completed in 1819, and followed in 1820 by Christ giving the Keys to Peter (Louvre). In 1815, also, Ingres had made many projects for treating a subject from the life of the celebrated duke of Alva, a commission from the family, but a loathing for "cet horrible homme" grew upon him, and finally he abandoned the task and entered in his diary -- "J’étais forcé par la nécessité de peindre un pareil tableau; Dieu a voulu qu’il restât en ébauche."

During all these years Ingres’s which his Chapelle Sistine had aroused at the Salon of Salon of 1814 soon died away ; not only was the public indifferent, but amongst his brother artists Ingres found scant recognition. The strict classicists looked upon him as a renegade, and strangely enough Delacroix and other pupils of Guérin -- the very leaders of that romantic movement for which Ingres, throughout his long life, always expressed the deepest abhorrence -- alone seem to have been sensible of his merits. The weight of poverty too was hard to bear.





In 1813 Ingres had married; his marriage had been arranged for him with a young woman who came in a business-like way from Montauban, on the strength of the representations of her friends in Rome to whom the painter was well known. Mme. Ingres speedily acquired a faith in her husband which enabled her to combat with heroic courage and patience the difficulties which beset their common existence, and which were increased by their removal to Florence.

There Bartolini, an old friend, had hoped that Ingres might have materially bettered his position, and that he might have aroused the Florentine school -- a weak offshoot from that of David -- to a sense -- to a sense of its own shortcomings. These expectations were disappointed. The good offices of Bartolini, and of one of two persons who felt a friendly interest in the painter, could only alleviate the miseries of this stay in a town where Ingres was all but wholly deprived of the means of at least gaining daily bread by the making of those small portraits for the execution of which, in Rome, his pencil had been constantly in request.

Before his departure he had, however, been commissioned to paint for M. de Pastoret the Entry of Charles V. into Paris, and M. de Pastoret now obtained and order for Ingres from the Administration of Fine Arts; he was directed to treat the Voeu de Louis XIII. For the cathedral of Montauban. This work, which was exhibited at the Salon of 1824, met with universal approbation: even those sworn to observe the unadulterated precept of David found only admiration for the Voeu de Louis XIII.

On his return Ingres was received at Montauban with enthusiastic homage, and found himself celebrated throughout France. In the following year (1825) he was elected to the Institute, and his face was further extended in 1826 by the publication of Sudre’s lithograph of the Grande Odalisque, which, having been scorned by artists and critics alike in 1819, now became widely popular. A second commission from the Government called forth the Apotheosis of Homer, which, replaced by a copy in the decoration of the ceiling for which it was designed, now hangs in the galleries of the second story of the Louvre.

From this date up till 1834 the studio of Ingres was thronged, as once had been thronged the studio of David, and he was a recognized chef d’école. Whilst he taught with despotic authority, and admirable wisdom he steadily worked; and when in 1834 he produced his great canvas of the Martydom of Saint Symphorien (cathedral of Autun; lithographed by Trichot-Garneri), it was with angry disgust and resentment that he found his work received with the same doubt and indifference, if not the same hostility, as had met his earlier ventures.

The suffrage of his pupils, and of one or two men -- like Decamps -- of undoubted ability, could not soften the sense of injury. Ingres resolved to work no longer 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 he executed La Vierge à l’Hostie (Imperial collections, St Petersburg), Stratonice (Duc d’ Aumale), Portrait of Cherubini (Louvre), and the Petite Odalisque for M. Marcotte, the faithful admirer for whom, in 1814, Ingres had painted the Chapelle Sistine.

The Stratonice, executed for the duke of Orleans, had been exhibited at the Palais Royal for several days after its arrival in France, and the beauty of the composition produced so favourable an impression that, on his return to Paris in 1841, Ingres found himself received with all the deference that he felt to be his due. A portrait of the purchaser of Stratonice was one of the first works executed after this return; and Ingres shortly afterwards began the decorations of the great hall in the Château de Dampierre, which unfortunately for the reputation of the painter, were begun with an ardour which gradually slackened, until in 1849 Ingres, having been further discouraged by the irreparable loss of his faithful and courageous wife, abandoned all hope of their completion, and the contract with the Duc de Luynes was finally cancelled.

A minor work, Jupiter and Antiope, marks the year 1851, but Ingres’s next considerable undertaking (1853) was the Apotheosis of Napoleon I., painted for the ceiling of a hall in the Hotel de Ville; Jeanne d’Arc (Louvre) appeared in 1854; and in 1855 Ingres contested to rescind the resolution more or less strictly kept since 1834, in favour of the International Exhibition, where a room was wholly reserved for his works. In consequence of the effect which they produced, Prince Napoleon, president of the jury, proposed an exceptional recompense for their author, an obtained from the emperor 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 -- La Source (Louvre), a figure of which he had painted the torso in 1823, and which seen works in London (1862) there renewed the general sentiment of admiration, and procured him, from the imperial government, the dignity of senator. After the completion of La Source, the principal works produced by Ingres were with one or two exceptions (Molière and Louis XIV., presented to the Théâtre Francais, 1858; Le Bain Turc, 1859), of a religious character; La Vierge de l’Adoption, 1858 (painted for Mdlle. Roland-Gosselin), was followed by La Vierge Couronnée (painted for Mme. La Baronne de Larinthie) and La Vierge aux Enfans (Collection Blanc); in 1859 these were followed by repetitions of La Vièrge à l’Hostie; and in 1862 Ingress completed Christ and the Doctors (Musèe Montauban), a work commissioned many years before by Queen Marie Amélie for the chapel of Bizy.

On the 14th January 1867 Ingres died, in his eighty-eighth year, having preserved his faculties in wonderful perfection to the last. For a moment only -- at the time of the execution of the Bain Turc, which Prince Napoleon was fain to exchange for an early portrait of the master by himself -- Ingres’s powers had seemed to fail, but he recovered, and showed in his last years the vigour which marked his early maturity. It is, however, to be noted that the Saint Symphorien exhibited in 1834 closes the list of the works on which his reputation will chiefly rest ; for La Source, which at first sight seems to be an exemption, was painted, all but the head and the extremities, in 1821; and from those who knew the work well in its incomplete state we learn that the after-painting, necessary to fuse new and old, lacked the vigour, the precision, and the something like touch which distinguished the original execution of the torso.

Touch was not, indeed, at any time a means of expression on which Ingres seriously calculated : his constant employment of local tint, in mass but faintly modeled in light by half tones, forbade recourse to the shifting effects of colour and light on which the Romantic school depended in indicating those fleeting aspects of things which they rejoiced to put on canvas; -- their methods would have disturbed the calculations of an art wholly based on form and line.

Except in his Sistine Chapel, and one or two slighter pieces, Ingres kept himself free from any preoccupation as to depth and force of colour and tone; driven, probably by the excesses of the Romantic movement into an attitude of stricter protest, "ce que l'on sait" he would repeat, " il faut le savoir l’épée à la main."

Ingres left himself, therefore, in dealing with crowded compositions, such as the Apotheosis of Homer and the Martydom of Saint Symphorien, without the means of producing the necessary unity of effect which had actually been employed in due measure -- as the Stanze of the Vatican bear witness -- by the very master whom he most deeply reverenced.

Thus it came to pass that in subjects of one or two figures Ingres showed to the greatest advantage: in Oedipus, in the Girl after Bathing, the Odalisque, and La Source -- subjects only animated by the consciousness of perfect well being -- we find Ingres at his best. One hesitates to put Roger and Angelique upon this list, for though the female figure shows the finest qualities of Ingres’s work, -- study of nature in her purest forms, perfect sincerity of intention and power of mastering an ideal conception, -- yet side by side with these the effigy of Roger on his hippogriff bears witness that from the passionless point of view, which, as before said, was Ingres’s birthright, the weird creatures of the fancy cannot be seen.

A graphic account of "Ingres, sa vie et ses travaux," and a catalogue of his works, were published by M. Delaborde in 1870, and dedicated to Mme. Ingres née Ramel, Ingres’s devoted second wife, whom he married in 1852. Allusions to the painter’s early days will be found in Delécluze’s Louis David; and amongst many less important notices may be cited that by Théophile Silvestre in his series of living artists. Most of Ingres’s important works are engraved in the collection brought out by Magimel. (E. F. S. P)

See also: French School of Painting



The above article was written by Lady Dilke (Emilia F. S. Pattison), author of The Renaissance of Art in France, Claude Lorraine: Sa Vie et ses Oeuvres, French Architects and Sculptors of the Eighteenth Century, etc.




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