Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Art Blogging: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) was a French Neoclassical and Orientalist Academic painter. He was the son of an unsuccessful artist and studied at an academy in Toulouse before joining the atelier of Jacques-Louis David. Awarded the Prix de Rome, he journeyed there and remained for twenty years, long after his stipend was expended. There, Ingres was heavily influenced by the Italian masters, particularly Raphael. He returned to Paris without critical acclaim, but was given the post of director of the French Academy in Rome. Ingres' reputation steady rose to the first rank of artists, and his portrait work was highly sought-after throughout Western Europe.
Jupiter and Thetis (oil on canvas, 1811, Musee Granet). In Roman mythology, Jupiter pursued the maiden Thetis, only to learn that it was prophesied that the son that she bore would become greater than his father. He then forsook her and arranged her marriage to a mortal. Thetis then gave birth to the great hero Achilles.
Napoloen I on His Imperial Throne (oil on canvas, 1806, Musee de L'Armee). Notice that Napoleon's pose resembles that of Jupiter in the previous painting. But more importantly, Ingres broke with tradition in his composition of the Emperor. In an effort to normalize his seizure of power, most (favorable) depictions of Napoleon referred to Baroque portraits of contemporary European royalty. Ingres, however, poses Napoleon as an emperor and surrounds him with symbols of the 9th Century Charlemagne.

Portait of Princesse Albert de Broglie, nee Josephine-Eleonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Bearn (oil on canvas, 1853, at the Met). Ingres' portrait work was renowned for its detail in every part, such as the precise folds in the Princess' chair back. His paintings are revered by historians of fashion for being attentive to the precise depiction of fashion design.

Ingres' most famous work today is La Grand Odalisque (oil on canvas, 1814, private collection), which initiated the Orientalist movement -- a time of European fascination with Islamic culture. This painting is most popularly known for the distorted back of its model, suggesting that she has several extra vertebrae. It is true that although Ingres was a product of Academic training and a late disciple of Raphael, his lines often rebelled against Academic figure methods.

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