Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French painter from the Neoclassical movement. He became primarily known- although, at the time, he was criticized- for his deformations on space and human figures, aiming to enhance the expressiveness of his compositions. Said boldness in his paintings was a pivotal precursor of modern art, as he influenced artists such as Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was born on August 29, 1780, in the commune of Montauban, France. His father was a very successful jack-of-all-trades in the artistic field, working as a miniature painter, decorative stonemason, and even an amateur musician. Young Ingres was encouraged by his father to explore drawing and music. The artist’s earliest known drawing was made when he was only nine years old.
At age six, Ingres enrolled at the Ecole des Freres de l’Education Chretienne. However, his studies were disrupted due to the political turmoil of the French Revolution. The lack of formal education would always remain as a source of insecurity for the artist.
In 1791, Ingres went with his father to the city of Toulouse, where the young artist was enrolled at the Academie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture. There, Ingres studied under the landscape painter Jean Briant, the sculptor Jean-Pierre Vigan, and the Neoclassical painter Guillaume-Joseph Roques. Roques’ devotion to Raphael’s artworks was a pivotal influence on young Ingres.
By August 1797, as was typical for ambitious young artists at the time, Ingres left Toulouse for Paris. His father was able to assure him a place at the studio of the distinguished Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. There, the artist befriended many colleagues and former students, such as Antoine-Jean Gros, Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Triosson, and most notably Etienne Delecluze.
Ingres’early artworks show his proficiency in academic conventions at the same he was able to break with said traditions. This method brought Ingres an early success. In 1801, the artist was awarded the Prix de Rome for his Ambassadors of Agamemnon. However, in 1806, Ingres submitted five portraits to the Paris Salon, one of them was Napoleon I on His Imperial Throne. It was only on his way to Paris that the artist learned about the apathetic reception to his pictures, with even critics from his teacher Jacques-Louis David. Ingres decided to remain in Italy until he was able to return triumphantly to Paris.
It was only after eighteen years abroad that Ingres was able to return as a success to Paris, as he was elected as a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts. Soon after, King Charles X awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honor, followed by a major commission to execute the Apotheosis of Homer on the Louvre’s ceiling.
In his later life, Ingres both social life and art production became increasingly private, as he focused on producing artworks only for close friends and family.