Art of the Day

30 Jan



Study for Venus a Paphos. by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). Graphite on paper, 1852. Not sure where it is (although the painted version is on view at the Musee D’Orsay, Paris).

Notes from about the artist:

Jean Ingres was a French neoclassical painter, who considered himself the protector of French academic orthodoxy, and fought against the rising popularity of Romanticism. He also considered the leader of the Romantic movement, Eugene Delacroix, his artistic nemesis. Perhaps part of his vehement protection of the classical style of painting had something to do with the early termination of his education. At age 11, the French Revolution began, disrupting his traditional childhood, which became a constant source of insecurity.

As a budding artist, Ingres was able to observe the many examples of famous artworks of Belgium, Holland, and Spain, which had been looted during the exploits of Napoleon, and were held at the Louvre. He freely borrowed from their classical interpretations and used the techniques in his own art, leading to many critics to accuse him of plundering the past. It was in this vein that his first submissions to the Paris Salon were received very poorly. Ingres’ humiliation was so deep that he vowed never to return to Paris. Throughout his early art career, his painting style, which emphasized the purity of color and did not employ the gradual shifting of color and shading as in Romantic paintings, led to many bad reviews. Ironically, it was only the Romantic artists, whom he so hated, that recognized and appreciated Ingres’s talents. show more

At the end of the Napoleonic empire, Ingres found himself without patronage and penniless. He survived by illustrating drawings for English tourists, many of which rank among his best creations. In 1824, he exhibited his Vow of Louis XIII, which led to his critical acclaim and made him widely popular. Even his earlier works, which had led to his humiliation and disgrace, were held up as masterpieces, and widely distributed. There is a tale that one of Ingres favorite students, Theodore Chasseriau, whom Ingres considered one of his favorite students, upon returning to his teacher after a number of years, showed a tendency toward Romanticism. Ingres quickly disavowed his student and never spoke favorably of him again. His success has led to the legacy of Classicism versus Romanticism, and created the standard to which Classical paintings were held. 

My comments:

Today in my Foundation Drawing class (on which I’ll post a link with elaboration soon on my foundation drawing page on this blog), in our discussion of drawing edges and positive versus negative space, our professor mentioned Ingres, who he considered masterful at this skill as well as perspective. 

I know almost certainly that if I hadn’t taken Foundation Drawing, my choice for Art of the Day today would never have been my choice. I tend to favor paintings because I think that on a superficial level that is characteristic of all people who have little knowledge about art, paintings are more interesting simply because there is literally more to them. Whereas drawings like the one above consist of only black and white and have no paint or color to them, paintings inherently possess many more properties to occupy the viewer’s attention for a longer time-it’s almost a matter of their quantitative value (more components=a more captivating artwork), without taking into account the qualitative value of each individual element of an artwork, a value that can be exponential depending on the magnitude of the artist’s gift. But after just one actual Foundation Drawing class (we’ve technically had three now but the first two were just introductory and we didn’t learn a lot), I’ve come to appreciate drawings like the one above exponentially more. I usually skip the Works on Paper section of museums, but now I plan to pay it a visit the next time I get to be in a museum. I know that my disregard of drawings is common, based partly on the fact that it was very difficult to find information about this sketch even though it was created by a major artist.

Anyway, now looking at this drawing by Ingres, what particularly interests me about it is the way he used line, pure line, to give the woman figure real substance. He managed to use shading to really convey the softness of the woman’s skin, which is amazing when you step back and realize this is made of nothing more than graphite on paper. I love how Ingres used a very faint line on the woman’s back because that is where the light source hits her body the most, while the front of her body possesses strong shading and is highly defined.

One Response to “Art of the Day”

  1. tara January 30, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    she has bad posture.

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