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."Condon et al. 1983, p. 13. The Louvre+, newly filled with booty seized by Napoleon in his campaigns in Italy+ and the Low Countries+, provided French artists of the early 19th 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.
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.
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."
|Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres+ Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (; 29 August 1780 – 14 January 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres's portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.|