Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

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Neoclassical artist Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was a painter whose life as an artist had its fair share of ups and downs. From being widely bashed and criticized at one point to being openly lauded and respected for his work overnight, Ingres’s life was nothing short of a French soap opera. Despite the fascinating trajectory of his artistic journey, today Ingres is regarded as one of the most famous artists of all times and is a French icon of cultural conservatism. His trademark obsession of searching for the concept of ideal beauty resulted in many of his famous and infamous works. But despite the backlash he faced during his time as an artist he also gained respect – the best and worst of both sides of being an artist one can say – he was even commissioned to do some pieces for the royal family.

Born in 1780 in Montauban, France to a painter father and home maker mother, Ingres discovered the world of art and music from his father. Due to the French Revolution Ingres’s initial schooling was cut short and this was followed by a few years of oscillating in between Rome and France. Ingres was mostly self taught when it came to art, and was driven by his own artistic impulses. These impulses are what caused the backlash against him during his initial years as in artist. Many also dubbed Ingres vain and insensitive for his overzealous pursuit of portraying beauty in his paintings. Despite the negativity of his initial years Ingres gained a reputation for being a well respected master teacher of art for inspiring artists in Paris and Rome. At the end Ingres did have the last laugh though as he walked away with the title of one of France’s greatest living artists of that time. He made such a mark that the concept of neoclassical art ended with his demise and there was no one left behind to carry on his legacy. Apart from being a painter Ingres was also an engraver, draftsman, printmaker and violinist. Ingres experimented with many nudes, mostly in the female form which didn’t win him many fans. Ingres’s paintings often consisted of the female form in strange disproportions as in the case of Grande Odalisque. Featuring a female object with a slightly more than unusual elongated body, today the painting can be found in the Louvre in Paris. It’s surprising to consider this masterpiece was initially dismissed by critics of art during Ingres’s time.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres also worked with pencil portraits, his work Mme Victor Baltard and Her Daughter Paule is a stark contrast to Ingres’s previous works. Rather than featuring his usual nude distorted form, the portrait is a delicate to-the-point sketch of a mother and daughter. It’s almost innocent in nature, which shows Ingres had a command over other forms of art as well. In fact many art historians state that Ingres’s sketches were well ahead of their time and surprisingly none of his sketches ever received any criticism and were mostly applauded for their simplistic beauty. Ingres’s quality of work no doubt laid the foundation for modern art which followed centuries later.

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