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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 - 1867)
Jean-August-Dominique Ingres is a French neo-classical painter, and
one of the major portrait painters of the 19th century. He received his first
lessons in art and music from his father, Joseph Ingres (1755-1814),
miniature-artist and sculptor. In 1791, he entered the Royal Academy of Arts in
Toulouse, where his teachers were J. Vigan and
G. Roques. Simultaneously he took violin lessons, and played in the local
orchestra. After 1797, Ingres was in
Paris, in the
studio of David. He resolutely studied principles of composition and human
anatomy. In 1801, he got a Roman prize for his picture Ambassadors of
Agamemnon and could go to Italy to continue his education. Because of
financial problems he stayed in Paris till 1806; during the period he executed a
number of bright and expressive portraits; Portrait of Napoléon on the
Imperial Throne, Self-Portrait, Portrait of Mademoiselle Rivière.
The model on every painting is portrayed on a large scale, and takes all the
space of the canvas. Ingres was reproached for imitation of Gothic masters and
Jan van Eyck.
From 1806 till
1824, the painter lived in Italy, first in Rome (1806-1820), then for four years
he worked and studied the art of Renaissance; Raphael was his idol. His fame as
a portraitist grew; his commissions increased. In 1807-24, he painted a lot of
portraits: his masterpiece - beautiful and mysterious Mme Duvauçay, a
mistress of d’Alquier, the French ambassador in Saint-Siège; Portrait of
Joseph-Antoine Moltedo, Portrait of Charles-Joseph-Laurent Cordier,
Portrait of Count Nikolay Gouriev, etc.
In 1813, Ingres
married Mlle Madeleine Chapelle (died in 1849), a modest milliner from Guéret,
see her portrait Madame Ingres. In 1813-14, in Rome he painted his
popular La Grande Odalisque. The picture was commissioned by the Queen of
Naples, Napoleon’s sister, but never delivered, since the Emperor’s fall
intervened. Ingres remained in Rome but sent the picture to the Paris Salon in
In 1824, Ingres
and showed Vow of Louis XIII (Montauban, Cathedral) in the Salon. This
canvas brought him official recognition and fame: he was elected in the Academy,
and awarded the Order of Honor. His very long stay in
and fondness of the Renaissance made him miss out on the formation of Romantic
painting in France. On his return he could not understand Romanticism and became
its violent opponent. From now on Ingres was looked upon as a foothold and the
hope of classicism. In 1835, he returned to
as Director of the French Academy of Arts in Rome (1835-1841). At the end of his
directorship, he came back to France. In Paris a great welcoming parade was held
in his honor. The king himself invited Ingres to the Versailles.
Though the big
canvases Apotheosis of Homer (1827), Martyrdom of St. Symphorien
(1834) and others are grandiose, and make impression with their sizes and labor
of the painter, they can’t be considered the achievements of the artist, they
are cold and rational. Working on such grand compositions with mythological and
religious subjects, the master was irritated when he had to distract for
portraits, but exactly the portraits made his name. The main force of Ingres was
in his contact with a model, his sitters always inspired the master. The
outstanding work is the Portrait of Louis-Francois Bertin.
But the summit
of Ingres’ achievement was his women portraits. The artist perfectly expressed
the cult of the ideal woman, as the 19th century saw her: woman as an item of
art, who commanded the art of communication, art of movements, art of being
dressed in accordance with place, time and her natural data. Though not all
Ingres’ models were beauties, he could find in each one special harmony,
attributed only to her: Portrait of Countess D'Haussonville, Portrait
of Baroness James de Rothschild, Portrait of Madame Gonse,
Portrait of Madame Moitessier Sitting. The secret of the charm of Ingres’
portraits is in his love to every model.
He was in love with women all his life. In 1852, he married Delphine Ramel, aged 20, at his own age 61. He remained like this till the end – one cold winter day he accompanied a young beautiful modle to a carriage, as a gallant man he stayed bareheaded. He caught a cold, which developed into pneumonia, he did not recover – he was 87 years old.
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