French Neoclassical Painter – Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

A French ‘Neoclassical’ painter and a vanguard of ‘Modern Art,’ Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was born on August 29, 1780 in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne. His unsuccessful painter and sculptor father, Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres, though could never carve out a niche for himself, nevertheless, became Jean’s early inspiration for music and drawing. The encouraged artist came up with his first drawing in as early as 1789. From 1786, Jean Auguste began his education from a local school, but had to drop out when it was shut down in 1791, during The French Revolution. The same year, he enrolled at the Académie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture, in Toulouse. Here, sculptor Jean-Pierre Vigan, landscape artist Jean Briant, and painter Joseph Roques, tutored him. At the age of thirteen, the painter learned to play violin from Lejeune.

In 1797, Jean Auguste Ingres moved to Paris and worked as an apprentice for four years under the renowned European painter, Jacques-Louis David. He got admission at École des Beaux-Arts in October 1799, and won the coveted Grand Prix de Rome scholarship in the year 1801, for his painting titled, “Achilles Receiving the Envoys from Agamemnon (1801).” The artist was a firm believer of the fact that drawing was the key to a good artwork. Jean Auguste’s drawings had firm contours, perfected to the minutest of details. His colors were a mix of light and half tones.

After his debut at the Salon of 1802, with his “Portrait of a Woman,” Jean along with four other artists was entrusted with the task of painting the full-length portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1806, the artist got engaged to painter & musician, Marie-Anne-Julie Forestier, and migrated to Rome. The same year, the display of Ingres’ paintings, “Self-Portrait (1804)” and “Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne (1806),” in the Salon attracted mass criticism for being ‘archaic’ and ‘Gothic’. Hurt, Jean decided to keep away from the Salons and Paris, both, which led to the break-up of his engagement. During his fourteen years stay in Rome, the artist mastered the techniques of drawing and paintings to become one of the most venerated draughts men of his times. Most of his nude paintings, such as “Oedipus and the Sphinx (1808),” however, received poor response from the public.

In the year 1813, he married Madeleine Chapelle. To augment his career, Jean along with his wife, moved to Florence in 1820, for four years, on the insistence of his old sculptor friend, Bartolini. Jean Ingres returned to Paris in 1824. It was a grand homecoming for the artist. His painting, “The Vow of Louis XIII (1824),” was highly appreciated at the Salon of 1824 and earned him the much deserved success after years of struggle. His favorite, “Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien,” created in 1834, however, was hugely criticized at the Salon exhibition the same year. Enraged, Ingres accepted his appointment as the Director of the French Academy, Rome, and decided not to paint for public anymore. His “The Stratonice (1840),” restored his honor when he visited Paris in 1841. He was felicitated with the rank of the Commander of the Legion of Honor, in 1845, and with a gold medal at the Universal Exhibition of Paris, in the year 1855. The death of his wife in July 1849 left Jean distraught. In 1851, the artist resigned from École des Beaux-Arts and in 1852, married forty-three old, Delphine Ramel.

In 1862, Jean created sensuous portraits of female nudes, including “The Turkish Bath,” his work. Ingres died of pneumonia on January 14, 1867, in Paris, leaving behind a legacy of great works, such as “Marie-Clothilde-Inés de Foucauld (1851),” “Madame Moitessier (1840),” and “Seated (1856),” to name a few.