29 August 1780
; Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, France *
14 January 1867
; Paris, France *
1800 - 1867
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.
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.