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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

French Painter

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Photo
Movements and Styles: Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Orientalism

Born: August 29, 1780 - Montauban, France

Died: January 14, 1867 - Paris, France

"Drawing is the probity of art. To draw does not mean simply to reproduce contours; drawing does not consist merely of line: drawing is also expression, the inner form, the plane, modeling. See what remains after that!"

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Signature

Summary of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

With a daring blend of traditional technique and experimental sensuality, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres reimagined Classical and Renaissance sources for 19th century tastes. A talented draftsman known for his serpentine line and impeccably rendered, illusionistic textures, he was at the center of a revived version of the ancient debate: is line or color the most important element of painting? Yet Ingres was not always successful; his experiments with abstracting the body and introducing more exotic and emotionally complex subjects earned harsh criticism in his early career. In truth, his work is best understood as a hybrid between Neoclassicism and Romanticism. It was only as the foil to the more dramatic Romanticism of Eugène Delacroix that Ingres came to be widely accepted as the defender of traditional painting and classicism.

Key Ideas

One of the most talented students in the studio of Jacques Louis David, Ingres found early success, winning the coveted Prix de Rome on only his second attempt. Yet while Ingres would always reflect the classical style associated with David, he complicated his master's legacy by distorting his figures and in choosing narratives that broke with the moral exemplars of his teacher.
In pursuit of more beautiful forms and harmonious line, Ingres pushed the abstraction of the body beyond the idealism of the Neoclassical. He abstracted his figures, even departing from the plausible construction of the body, to emphasize graceful contours and a pleasant visual effect. This new level of freedom would encourage other artists to take liberties with the human form, from Renoir (who was reportedly infatuated with Ingres) to the 20th century Surrealists.
Despite his transgressions, when compared to the painterly brushwork and brilliant palettes of the Romantics, such as Eugène Delacroix, Ingres was undoubtedly connected to the classical tradition and academic style. In the mid-19th century, he came to represent the Poussinistes, who believed that the cerebral quality of the drawn line was more critical to a painting, opposed to the Rubenistes, who favored the emotional impact of color. As the defender of tradition, Ingres updated Renaissance ideals for the modern era, in particular working after the model of Raphael.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres Photo

The eldest child of the sculptor, painter, and musician Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique was born in 1780 in Montauban, a small town in southern France. Under his father's tutelage, he showed a talent for violin and a proclivity for drawing at a young age; his earliest-known signed drawing dates to 1789. His Parisian education at the Collège des Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes was cut short when the school closed during the French Revolution. In 1791, Ingres's father sent him to nearby Toulouse, enrolling him in the Académie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture where he studied with the painters Guillaume-Joseph Roques and Jean Briant and the sculptor Jean-Pierre Vigan. He also continued his interest in music, performing second violin with the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse from 1794 to 1796. Ingres's musical abilities would later give birth to the phrase "Ingres's violin," used to describe a prodigious, but secondary talent, overshadowed by one's primary occupation; the term would later serve as the title for a famous 1924 Surrealist photograph by Man Ray.

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