Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres was born in Montauban in southern France on 29 August 1780, one of five surviving children whose father Joseph, also an artist, was eager for his son to follow in his footsteps.
By the age of 12, he had been enrolled at art school in Toulouse and before he even reached full manhood had already won awards for his work, he would always be keen on winning prizes.
Although, he was raised during a period of great political convulsion and social upheaval the events of the time and his experience of them were rarely reflected in his art. Yet he was soon being spoken of as the heir to Jacques-Louis David, who though still admired had long since been politically ostracised and sent into exile, and Ingres agreed coming to see himself as the defender of the neo-classical (exemplified in the mind of many by David’s Oath of the Haratii) against the rise of romanticism in the arts represented by his great rival Eugene Delacroix.
Indeed, he was considered so orthodox by some in the artistic and literary salons of Paris and elsewhere that he was accused of merely reinterpreting the great art of the past with nothing original to say, an accusation little short of plagiarism.
It was in 1805, after he had moved to the Villa Medici in Rome where he had a studio that he first became aware of the criticisms that were circulating back in Franc and angrily remarked:
“The scoundrels, they waited until I was away before they assassinated my reputation.”
Yet, though he remained largely uncontroversial in choice of subject matter the techniques he adopted and the style that resulted are now seen as essential precursors in the development of modern art, particularly in the portraiture for which he is best remembered now.
It wasn’t seen like that at the time and it remains uncertain whether Ingres would have appreciated the legacy.
Yet unlike his rival Delacroix, who was always more beloved of the artistic establishment than he was the people, Ingres popularity rarely waned despite becoming a little too closely associated with the Orleanist regime of Louis-Philippe which was overthrown in 1848.
Ingres died of pneumonia on 14 January 1867, after a long life and career aged 86, more admired than he had been and no less popular.
He was interred in Pere Lachaise Cemetery.
Joan of Arc at the Coronation of Charles VII.
Virgil reading to Augustus
Roger Freeing Angelica
The Death of Leonardo da Vinci
The Turkish Bath
Romulus, Victory over Acron
Baronne de Rothschild
Louise de Broglie
La Grande Delaluque