Adam Skolnick, Andrew Bain, Sarah Baxter, Simon Sellars
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) produced a body of work that strongly appealed to his contemporaries while disconcerting them. The odd qualities of his work continue to fascinate scholars, critics, and artists today. For the most part scholars have sought to make sense of that strangeness either by examining the vicissitudes of the artist's critical reputation or by appealing to his supposed intellectual and psychic limitations. Siegfried argues that this strangeness needs to be located in the complex and richly-invested nature of the work itself as well as in Ingres' very powerful, if often perverse, sense of artistic project. She shows that his major re-thinking of pictorial narrative was as central to his achievement and reputation as his distinctive rendering of the female figure in classical nudes and portraits. Creative in his choice and interpretation of classical literary, historical, and religious subjects, he was engaged in a complex process of giving visual form to narrative, which he did in new and unusual ways that involved him in a close reading of the texts on which he drew, including authors such as Homer, Virgil, Ariosto, and Dante, as well as religious narratives and stories about medieval and early modern French history that were becoming popular in the period. This book takes full account of the different and seemingly divergent aspects of Ingres' achievement. Recognizing that his work was fragmentary and contradictory, Siegfried's study sees those traits as constitutive of the imaginative power of his work and of its very real and singularly affecting complexity. The book encompasses a wide range of his activities as an artist and of the different registers in which he operated, including his obsessive research into source material, his proliferating drawing practice and his intensive working and reworking of his finished paintings. The complexities of his practice are elucidated with reference to contemporary correspondence, commission documents and critical reviews that shed light on his work and ambitions.