Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ingres portrait drawings

In 1814 Ingres, not yet a major artist in France traveled to Naples, Italy to paint a series of pictures for Queen Caroline Murat and her family. Among the paintings was the Grande Odalisque I showed you the other night. Caroline, a young sister of Napoleon lost her kingdom in 1815 and Ingres was not paid for his work. Nearly destitute in Naples and far from home he began taking portrait commissions from visitors and tourists on the grand tour. Many of his sitters were English. Some of the portraits I have posted here are from that era.

Here is a portrait of his wife, Madeleine Chapelle. He married her sight unseen after a lengthy correspondence. They had a long and loving marriage. These portraits are much admired by draftsmen and are perhaps the best of their sort. They are really the reason he is revered as one of the greatest draftsmen in history. Degas and many other artist held him in great esteem because of them. I copied several as a student and once copying Ingres drawings was a common exercise for training young painters.

Despite his being a classicist, these drawings do seem to be warm and personal. I often look at them and think how much they look like actual people I might know. Some portraits of this era are remote and somewhat too formal to carry to the viewer an idea of what the sitter might have been like. Perhaps because they were informal and relatively quick creations these drawings lack that fault. I am sure Ingres thought of them as busy work done for money, but they are very fine and our contemporary liking or less formal art has only made them more attractive, when some of his history painting seems aloof and removed from our everyday experience.

I will return tomorrow and break down one of these drawings and see what makes it work.


barbara b. land of boz said...

Thank you Stape.......

James Gunter said...

I generally come to this blog for information about landscape painting, but I certainly enjoy your forays into other kinds of visual art as well. These portrait drawings by Ingres are wonderful. I'm sure they're idealized, however they don't seem to be idealized to the point of loosing the unique nature of the individuals portrayed in them.

Philip Koch said...

Yes these drawings are pretty amazing! I like Stape's comments about their relative informality- they do seem more accessible and "of our own time" than many others pieces of that period. Often Rembrandt's wash drawings feel that same way- curiously contemporary.

JonInFrance said...

Well, since you mentioned that drawing skills are a problem back in November 2010, I've been cncentrating soley on drawing, so I'll be interesdted to see your analysis - and hope you do more posts on the topic. Jon

billspaintingmn said...

There's sketching and drawing.
Sketching is quick, and captures the energy. Drawing is acurate and every line should have a purpose.
These drawings are as refined and
purposeful as any I've ever seen.

I should draw more!

Lucy said...

As great as he was, do you think Ingres had trouble drawing hands? They always seem awkward compared to everything else. Maybe that's one of the things that is so interesting about him.

Lucy said...
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Stapleton Kearns said...

You are welcome.

Stapleton Kearns said...

It is good to know about lots of kinds of painting. The chops in this stuff can be used tin the landscape too.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I have always loved the Ingres pencil portraits.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Yes I intend to do more.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Refined and purposeful is a characteristic of classicism.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I don't think Ingres had a problem drawing anything.