Neoclassical Art of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

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  • 00:00 Who Was Jean Auguste…
  • 1:06 Ingres and David
  • 1:56 The Apotheosis of Homer
  • 3:07 Ingres and French Art
  • 4:06 The Grande Odalisque
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was one of the great Neoclassical painters, but his style could sometimes waiver. Explore his training and attitude about art and discover how these influenced his person style.

Who Was Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres?

The master and the apprentice: a relationship as old as time itself, not to mention the source for innumerable books, plays, and movies. Will the apprentice learn from his master, or will the student become the teacher? It's a tale of suspense and drama, and we see it everywhere. Even in art.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was an early 19th-century painter with a long French name and a very famous teacher. Ingres was taught the art of painting by the great French master Jacques-Louis David. David epitomized the Neoclassical movement in art, which reinvigorated Greek and Roman forms, often in the styles of the Italian Renaissance, an earlier culture to venerate classical civilization. With such an important teacher, it's no surprise that Ingres grew to be an incredibly respected painter himself. But where does he fit in art history? As a student of David? Or has the student become the master?

Ingres and David

Jacques-Louis David was one of the most respected artists of the Neoclassical movement and the official court painter under Napoleon Bonaparte. So naturally, he trained his students to respect Neoclassical ideals, which meant an intense love of all things from the Classical societies of ancient Greece and Rome.

David encouraged his students to learn Latin so they could read Roman texts firsthand. He pushed them to choose their subjects from Plutarch, an ancient Greek historian who wrote during the first century. Although Ingres and David disagreed on some points about compositions, Ingres became fully attached to the Neoclassical devotion to classical art and even thought that David was not obsessed enough. In fact, Ingres' favorite was the Renaissance painter Raphael, who was a major figure in elevating classical subjects to high art back in the 16th century.

The Apotheosis of Homer

Apotheosis of Homer, by Ingres

Here's an example of Ingres' work in a very Neoclassical style. This is his Apotheosis of Homer, painted in 1827. In this, the ancient Greek author of The Iliad and The Odyssey is crowned by Victory, surrounded by poets, artists, and philosophers from the ancient and modern world who were important to Western history. Examples include the Renaissance poet Dante, ancient Greek writer Herodotus, Greek writer Aesop, Renaissance artist Michelangelo, English playwright Shakespeare, Austrian composer Mozart, and Greek philosophers Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato.

Not only is this painting Neoclassical in the subject, which proclaims Homer and Classical society as the basis of all Western achievements and civilization, but in the strict, ordered, and logical composition that emulated classical ideas about art. And beyond that, this is actually an homage to a painting by Raphael, called the School of Athens, which also filled a single space with classical and contemporary intellectuals.

Ingres and French Art

Now, Ingres always considered himself to be in line with the Neoclassical movement. Nonetheless, his style actually strayed from pure Neoclassicism at several points throughout his career. This is partly a reflection of David's teaching. While David stressed pure Neoclassicism, he also gave his students the room they needed to experiment and develop their own styles.

We can see this in Ingres' portraits, which he never believed to be as important as scenes of historical subjects, but are regarded by art historians as some of his greatest works.

Neoclassical Portrait

Some, like this one, are very Neoclassical, presenting subjects in classical poses in compositions of calm and rational logic. Others, however, are less Neoclassical, displaying more emphasis on the subject's personality and emotions than classical poses.

A Realistic Portrait

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