Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was born in Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, France, the first of seven children (five of whom survived infancy) of Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres (1755-1814) and his wife Anne Moulet (1758-1817). His father was a successful jack-of-all-trades in the arts, a painter of miniatures, sculptor, decorative stonemason, and amateur musician, his mother was the nearly illiterate daughter of a master wigmaker. From his father the young Ingres received early encouragement and instruction in drawing and music, and his first known drawing, a study after an antique cast, was made in 1789. Starting in 1786 he attended the local school, Ecole des Freres de l'Education Chretienne, but his education was disrupted by the turmoil of the French Revolution, and the closing of the school in 1791 marked the end of his conventional education. The deficiency of his schooling would always remain for him a source of insecurity.
In 1791, Joseph Ingres took his son to Toulouse, where the young Jean Auguste Dominique was enrolled in the Academie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture. There he studied under the sculptor Jean-Pierre Vigan, the landscape painter Jean Briant, and-most importantly-the painter Joseph Roques, who imparted to the young artist his veneration of Raphael. Ingres's musical talent was further developed under the tutelage of the violinist Lejeune. From the ages of thirteen to sixteen he was second violinist in the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse, and he would continue to play the violin as an avocation for the rest of his life.
Having been awarded first prize in drawing by the Academy, in August 1797 he traveled to Paris to study with Jacques-Louis David, France's-and Europe's-leading painter during the revolutionary period, in whose studio he remained for four years. Ingres followed his master's neoclassical example but revealed, according to David, "a tendency toward exaggeration in his studies." He was admitted to the Painting Department of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in October 1799, and won, after tying for second place in 1800, the Grand Prix de Rome in 1801 for his Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the tent of Achilles. His trip to Rome, however, was postponed until 1806, when the financially strained government finally appropriated the travel funds.
Working in Paris alongside several other students of David in a studio provided by the state, he further developed a style that emphasized purity of contour. He found inspiration in the works of Raphael, in Etruscan vase paintings, and in the outline engravings of the English artist John Flaxman. In 1802 he made his debut at the Salon with Portrait of a Woman (whose current whereabouts are unknown). The following year brought a prestigious commission, when Ingres was one of five artists selected (along with Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Robert Lefevre, Charles Meynier, and Marie-Guillemine Benoist) to paint full-length portraits of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul. These were to be distributed to the prefectural towns of Liege, Antwerp, Dunkerque, Brussels, and Ghent, all of which were newly ceded to France in the 1801 Treaty of Luneville.
In the summer of 1806 Ingres became engaged to Marie-Anne-Julie Forestier, a painter and musician, before leaving for Rome in September. Although he had hoped to stay in Paris long enough to witness the opening of that year's Salon, in which he was to display several works, he reluctantly left for Italy just days before the opening. At the Salon, his paintings-Self-Portrait, portraits of the Riviere family, and Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne-produced a disturbing impression on the public, due not only to Ingres's stylistic idiosyncrasies but also to his adoption of Carolingian imagery in representing Napoleon. David delivered a severe judgement, and the critics were uniformly hostile, finding fault with the strange discordances of colour, the want of sculptural relief, the chilly precision of contour, and the self-consciously archaic quality. Chaussard (Le Pausanias Francais, 1806) condemned Ingres's style as gothic and asked:
How, with so much talent, a line so flawless, an attention to detail so thorough, has M. Ingres succeeded in painting a bad picture? The answer is that he wanted to do something singular, something extraordinary.... M. Ingres's intention is nothing less than to make art regress by four centuries, to carry us back to its infancy, to revive the manner of Jean de Bruges.
As art historian Marjorie Cohn has written: "At the time, art history as a scholarly enquiry was brand new. Artists and critics outdid each other in their attempts to identify, interpret, and exploit what they were just beginning to perceive as historical stylistic developments." The Louvre, newly filled with booty seized by Napoleon in his campaigns in Belgium, Holland, and Italy, provided French artists of the early nineteenth century with an unprecedented opportunity to study, compare, and copy masterworks from antiquity and from the entire history of European painting. From the beginning of his career, Ingres freely borrowed from earlier art, adopting the historical style appropriate to his subject, leading critics to charge him with plundering the past.Newly arrived in Rome, Ingres read with mounting indignation the relentlessly negative press clippings sent to him from Paris by his friends. In letters to his prospective father-in-law he expressed his outrage at the critics: "So the Salon is the scene of my disgrace,...The scoundrels, they waited until I was away to assassinate my reputation....I have never been so unhappy." He vowed never again to exhibit at the Salon, and his refusal to return to Paris led to the breaking up of his engagement. Julie Forestier, when asked years later why she had never married, responded, "When one has had the honor of being engaged to M. Ingres, one does not marry."
Ingres and his wife moved to Florence in 1820 at the urging of the Florentine sculptor Bartolini, an old friend from his years in Paris, who hoped that Ingres would improve his position materially, but Ingres, as before, had to rely on his drawings of tourists and diplomats for support. His friendship with Bartolini, whose worldly success in the intervening years stood in sharp contrast to Ingres's poverty, quickly became strained, and Ingres found new quarters. In 1821 he finished a painting commissioned by a childhood friend, Monsieur de Pastoret, The Entry of Charles V into Paris into Paris, de Pastoret also ordered a portrait of himself and a religious work (Virgin with the Blue Veil). The major undertaking of this period, however, was a commission obtained in August 1820 with the help of de Pastoret, to paint The Vow of Louis XIII for the Cathedral of Montauban. Recognizing this as an opportunity to establish himself as a painter of history, he spent four diligent years bringing the large canvas to completion, and he travelled to Paris with it in October 1824.
The Vow of Louis XIII, exhibited at the Salon of 1824, finally brought Ingres critical success. Conceived in a Raphaelesque style relatively free of the archaisms for which he had been reproached in the past, it was admired even by strict Davidians. Ingres found himself celebrated throughout France, in January 1825 he was awarded the Cross of the Legion d'honneur, and in June 1825 he was elected to the Institute. His fame was extended further in 1826 by the publication of Sudre's lithograph of La Grande Odalisque, which, having been scorned by artists and critics alike in 1819, now became widely popular.
A commission from the government called forth the monumental Apotheosis of Homer, which Ingres eagerly finished in a year's time. From 1826 to 1834 the studio of Ingres was thronged, and he was a recognized chef d'ecole who taught with authority and wisdom while working steadily. The critics came to regard Ingres as the standard-bearer of classicism against the romantic school - a role he relished. The paintings, primarily portraits, that he sent to the Salon in 1827 and 1833 were well received. The portrait of Louis-Franç,ois Bertin (1832) was a particular success with the public, who found its realism spellbinding, although some of the critics found its naturalism vulgar and its coloring drab.
The thin-skinned artist was outraged, however, by the criticism of his ambitious canvas of The Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien (cathedral of Autun), shown in the Salon of 1834. Resentful and disgusted, Ingres resolved never again to work for the public, and gladly availed himself of the opportunity to return to Rome, as director of the Ecole de France, in the room of Horace Vernet. There, although the time he spent in administrative duties slowed the flow of paintings from his brush, he executed Antiochus and Stratonice (executed for Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orleans), Portrait of Luigi Cherubini, and the Odalisque with Slave, among other works.
The Stratonice, exhibited at the Palais Royal for several days after its arrival in France, produced so favourable an impression that, on his return to Paris in 1841, Ingres was received with all the deference that he felt was his due. One of the first works executed after his return was a portrait of the duc d'Orleans, whose death in a carriage accident just weeks after the completion of the portrait sent the nation into mourning and led to orders for additional copies of the portrait.
Ingres shortly afterward began the decorations of the great hall in the Chateau de Dampierre. These murals, the Golden Age and the Iron Age, were begun in 1843 with an ardour which gradually slackened until Ingres, devastated by the loss of his wife on July 27, 1849, abandoned all hope of their completion and the contract with the Duc de Luynes was finally cancelled. A minor work, Jupiter and Antiope, dates from 1851, in July of that year he announced a gift of his artwork to his native city of Montauban, and in October he resigned as professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
The following year Ingres, at seventy-one years of age, married forty-three-year-old Delphine Ramel, a relative of his friend Marcotte d'Argenteuil. This marriage proved as happy as his first, and in the decade that followed Ingres completed several significant works. A major undertaking was the Apotheosis of Napoleon I, painted in 1853 for the ceiling of a hall in the Hotel de Ville, Paris and destroyed by fire in the Commune of 1871. The portrait of Princesse Albert de Broglie was also completed in 1853, and Joan of Arc appeared in 1854. The latter was largely the work of assistants, whom Ingres often entrusted with the execution of backgrounds. In 1855 Ingres consented to rescind his resolution, more or less strictly kept since 1834, in favour of the International Exhibition, where a room was reserved for his works.
Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul Bonaparte, president of the jury, proposed an exceptional recompense for their author, and obtained from emperor Napoleon III of France Ingres's nomination as grand officer of the Legion d'honneur.
With renewed confidence Ingres now took up and completed one of his most charming productions, The Source, a figure for which he had painted the torso in 1823, when seen with other works in London in 1862, admiration for his works was renewed, and he was given the title of senator by the imperial government.
After the completion of The Source Ingres produced paintings of historical genre, such as two versions of Louis XIV and Moliere, (1857 and 1860), as well as several religious works in which the figure of the Virgin from The Vow of Louis XIII is reprised: The Virgin of the Adoption of 1858 (painted for Mademoiselle Roland-Gosselin) was followed by The Virgin Crowned (painted for Madame la Baronne de Larinthie) and The Virgin with Child. In 1859 he produced repetitions of The Virgin of the Host, and in 1862 he completed Christ and the Doctors, a work commissioned many years before by Queen Marie Amalie for the chapel of Bizy.
The last of his important portrait paintings date from this period: Marie-Clothilde-Ines de Foucauld, Madame Moitessier, Seated (1856), Self-Portrait at the Age of Seventy-nine and Madame J.-A.-D. Ingres, nee Delphine Ramel, both completed in 1859. The Turkish Bath, finished in a rectangular format in 1859, was revised in 1860 before being turned into a tondo. Ingres signed and dated it in 1862, although he made additional revisions in 1863.
Ingres died of pneumonia on January 17, 1867, at the age of eighty-six, having preserved his faculties to the last. He is interred in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France. The contents of his studio, including a number of major paintings, over 4000 drawings, and his violin, were bequeathed by the artist to the city museum of Montauban, now known as the Musee Ingres.