P51 – Part Two – Observation in Nature – Research 6A – Masters of Detailed Drawing – Ingres

“Find out about two artists who exemplify mastery of detailed drawing … Choose a modern artist and one working in the nineteenth century.”

As soon as I read ‘detailed drawing’, I thought ‘Ingres’ whose work I saw in an exhibition at the the Fitzwilliam in Cambridge last year. I was impressed at the time by the detail of his work on show.

According to Wikipedia, “Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 – 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres’s portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy.”

In 1791, Ingres was enrolled by his father in the Académie Royale de Peinture, Sculpture et Architecture. In 1797, having been awarded first prize in drawing by the Academy, he travelled to Paris to study with Jacques-Louis David, France’s leading painter, where he stayed for four years.

Madeleine Chapelle 1813 (pen & ink and w/c on paper)

[NOT from Bridgeman Education]

Ingres moved to Rome in 1806 to continue his studies, but with the fall of Napoleon’s dynasty in 1814, he found himself essentially stranded there without patronage. During this low point of his career, he was forced to depend for his livelihood on the execution, in pencil, of small portrait drawings of the many tourists, in particular the English, passing through postwar Rome. For an artist who aspired to a reputation as a history painter, this seemed menial work, and to the visitors who knocked on his door asking, “Is this where the man who draws the little portraits lives?”, he would answer with irritation, “No, the man who lives here is a painter!” Nevertheless, the portrait drawings he produced in such profusion during this period are of outstanding quality, and rank today among his most admired works.

His student Robert Balze described Ingres’s working routine in executing his portrait drawings, each of which required four hours, as “an hour and a half in the morning, then two-and-a-half hours in the afternoon, he very rarely retouched it the next day. He often told me that he got the essence of the portrait while lunching with the model who, off guard, became more natural.”


Mr. and Mrs. Woodhead with Rev. Henry Comber as a Youth, 1816 (pencil on paper)

[NOT from Bridgeman Education]

Before his departure for Rome, the familiar characteristics of his drawing style were well established, the delicate yet firm contour, the definite yet discreet distortions of form, the almost uncanny capacity to seize a likeness in the precise yet lively delineation of features. His earliest drawings already show a suavity of outline and an extraordinary control of the parallel hatchings which model the forms.

His preferred materials were also already established: the sharply pointed graphite pencil on a smooth white paper. So familiar to us are both the materials and the manner that we forget how extraordinary they must have seemed at the time.


Portrait of Niccolo Paganini 1819 (pencil on paper)

[NOT from Bridgeman Education]

From the first, his paintings are characterized by a firmness of outline reflecting his often-quoted conviction that “drawing is the probity of art”. He believed colour to be no more than an accessory to drawing, explaining: “Drawing is not just reproducing contours, it is not just the line; drawing is also the expression, the inner form, the composition, the modelling. See what is left after that. Drawing is seven eighths of what makes up painting.”

In addition to his portraits, several drawn studies for paintings exist. One of the more celebrated ones in his ‘girl with three arms’ which is a study for his painting The Turkish Bath.


Study for the Turkish Bath (graphite on paper)

[NOT from Bridgeman Education]

The Turkish Bath (1862) by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Turkish Bath, 1863 (oil on canvas)

[NOT from Bridgeman Education]

Ingres’s influence on later generations of artists has been considerable. His most significant heir was Degas. In the 20th century, Picasso and Matisse were among those who acknowledged a debt to the great classicist. Barnett Newman credited Ingres as a progenitor of abstract expressionism, explaining: “Kline, de Kooning—none of us would have existed without him.”


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website johnpindararts.weebly.com
This entry was posted in Art, Drawing 1, OCA, Open College of the Arts, Research and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to P51 – Part Two – Observation in Nature – Research 6A – Masters of Detailed Drawing – Ingres

  1. Pingback: A Message to Bridgeman Education from the Rijksmuseum | notes to the milkman

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