Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ingres: Neo-Classical Genius

All this eating, drinking and shopping we've been doing has got to stop for a moment so we can get down to the nitty gritty of why one comes to Paris.  There are millions of reasons I know, but let's start with one of the more obvious-- art at its finest.  With that as our goal, the letter I is going to take us into the world of one of my favorite artists, Jean Auguste Ingres.

Jean Auguste Ingres was a student of the neo-classical school, having been taught by Jaques Louis David (another favorite of mine).  His biography is long and eventful and I don't need to go into great detail here as to all the awards he won and places he studied.  I just want to post some of his works that I find fascinating and each time I stand before them, some new element regarding his work is revealed. 

His portraits done for wealthy clients during his early years have been both revered and criticized.  His work has been called too stylized, while others feel his representation of women and fashion and the wearing of that fashion allows us to 'situate ourselves' within the painting. One is able to feel the weight of the fabric or hear the sound satin makes while rustling against legs trying to maneuver underneath it all.  He hated seeing obvious brush marks and that absolute precision, sometimes to a fault, comes through in his works.  Skin is milky and luminescent--it's tinge of blue hinting at life that lies just below.  The fabric's folds are meticulous and crisp, creating a sense of weight and volume.  I never tire standing in front of these works and breathing my own life into them.

His career covers numerous styles, including religious works (not my favorite) and at a very low point when work was not to be found, he took to doing pencil sketches of tourists making their way through Rome where he was living at the time.  With the skill he possessed, he felt this work unworthy of his talent, yet these sketches numbering over 400 are some of his most admired.  

Then of course, there is the La Grande Odalisque, which I present to you not one, not two, but three ways.  The top is the original which can be found at the Louvre.  It was painted for Napoleon's sister Caroline Murat of Naples for which he was never paid.  It shows an odalisque or concubine, reclining on sumptuous fabric surrounded by Turkish inspired accouterments.  I can't say why exactly I am so drawn to it but every time I visit the Louvre I pay homage to this painting while the rest of the world visits 'La Joconde'.  The middle is a pencil sketch that Ingres created as inspiration and finally there is the work in Grisaille that you can find at the Metropolitan Museum in New York which is attributed to assistants of his. Not knowing of its existence, when I entered the room it was displayed in, it just took my breath away.  The minute I saw it, there was that pull again. It's so strong that I had to use it as the mast head for my blog.  It's weird so I just go with it. 

Sending you off in other directions if any of this is of any interest to you.  Certainly if you are making your way to Paris, you are going to run into Monsieur Ingres at some point so I thought you two should be introduced.  

Additional information:  Ingres@amazon.com, artchive, ingresweb
Photo credit:  wikipedia, ingresweb, metmuseum

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