Sunday, March 6, 2011

!00 paintings an artist should know, Ingres management edition

52) La Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres 1780-1867
Ingres was trained at a Royal Academy school in Toulouse. He also was accomplished on the violin and was good enough at that to be second chair in an orchestra. He developed in the art school a life long infatuation with the painter Raphael. Here again is another link in those chains that run through our art history.
Ingres moved to Paris to study with the great history painter Jacques- Louis David. He also studied the work of an English artist named John Flaxman. Below is one of Flaxman's drawings reproduced as an engraving.

Below is one of Ingres own drawings. You can see the classical influence from both Raphael and the restrained and severe linear style of Flaxman. Paris was full of the looted treasures from Napoleon's conquest, which provided Ingres an opportunity to study classical sculpture and archaic sculpture. These and the vase paintings of the Greeks helped him to synthesize a new, linear and somewhat archaic style.

Ingres was one of the finest pencil draftsmen who has ever lived. It is that enormous precision and refined grace which makes his paintings work. They are colored drawings. That is a very different thing from the painterly approach of a Rembrandt or a Monet.

Ingres was a classicist. He lived at the same time as Delacroix and the two constitute the opposite poles of French art of that era and for the next generations of artists. France was to experience a century of tremendous artistic excellence. I intend to chronicle a fair bit of that in the posts to come. It was left out of the history books given me as an art student, but is now starting to return, as the work of the French academics is brought out of the museum basements and hung in their halls above ground.

If you want to read a good text on classicism may I recommend: The Classic point of view by Kenyon Cox. This book had a tremendous effect on me, but it is not light reading and not a how-to book. The ideas in this book, once common, seem unavailable pretty much anywhere else today.

Ingres won the Prix- de Rome in 1801. The prize was an opportunity to study in Rome with lodging in the Villa Medici and a stipend for expenses provided. Ingres sent paintings to the Salon in Paris and they were not met with a favorable reception. His attenuated figures and nearly primitive deliberate flattening of the figures was seen as odd and unnaturalistic by the critics in Paris.

I will return tomorrow with more on Ingres. I think I will devote a few posts to this extremely important and influential artist.


Deb said...

I will have to add up how much money this blog has already cost me, but I have to say, all the book recommendations have been worth it.

Random thought here... in reference to the course of modern art, I just watched a documentary called "Exit Through the Gift Shop", regarding street art ... it's worth seeing. Won Best Documentary.

Chris said...

Stape, nice work with your history posts, including the modern stuff.

The Kenyon Cox book is available free as an ebook - a couple different versions available via

There seem to be other books by Cox if you find it a good read.

MCG said...

The Kenyon Cox lectures referenced in tonight’s post can also be found on Google Books. The version in the database is a copy from the Harvard Fine Arts library. Many titles of interest including Reynolds Discourses (also mentioned in this blog,Daniel Parkhurst’s The Painter in Oil, even Cennino Cennini’s treatise on painting can be found there. You can download it as a .pdf file or e-pub or save it in "my library" in the Google cloud.

MCG said...

oops, I should mention this is also free in Google Books. Here's the link to the book.

billspaintingmn said...

Stape, these posts are interesting on many levels, thanks!
I have always enjoyed drawings from artists that were known for there paintings.
The Flaxman woodcut is cool, and the Ingres drawing is as refined as anything.
The art exhibit from the Louve had
drawings from DaVinci and Michael Angelo, I think there may have been some influence there also. (I
reminds me of that anyway) said...

"Primitive deliberate flattening" sounds kind of modern...ushered in by early photography's harsh and strong lighting requirements. Hmmm.....

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have heard of that I will see if Netflix has it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Thanks I put that link on the blog. I don't like reading online when I ca get a real book. Perhaps if I got a kindle I would be happier.

Stapleton Kearns said...


Stapleton Kearns said...

More Flaxman tonight!

Stapleton Kearns said...

Daguerre took his first photo of a human in 1839 the Odalisque was painted in 1814. I think the influence of photography was probably minimal at best. Art is generally influenced by that which proceeds, rather than follows it.
Katz! Katz! Katz!