WORKS BY INGRES: THE SOURCE
Works by Ingres. When I visited the exhibition dedicated to Impressionism in Treviso I was impressed that the among the first paintings on shown there were some portraits by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, a leading figure of Neoclassical painting, a style which would be overwhelmed by Impressionism. But it’s the first time I’ve seen Ingres’s works not as something completely alien to Impressionism, because sometimes if you read history dividing into categories, you may lose the overall view.
In Ingres’s paintings there’s something that makes them attractive to all later generations of artists, from Degas to Matisse and to Picasso.
In particular, Matisse described Ingres as the first artist “to use pure colours, outlining them without distorting them”.
In some portraits by Ingres you can see the balance between realistic representation and ideal model.
The artist would be renowned for the ideal beauty he would be able to achieve, but he would be also an important point of reference for the Impressionist, who would go the other way.
One of the works by Ingres I love the most is The Source, painted between 1820, when the artist was still in Italy in order to complete his artistic training, and 1856, when he was already a famous and acclaimed artist.
The Source by Ingres is the summary of a life of work, and the result of a long study of the Italian Renaissance, and especially of Raphael.
The painting depicts a nude woman in the classical pose of a Venus rising from the sea, a fundamental theme of art history from ancient times up to nowadays.
The model used by Ingres is of course the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, which the artist saw at the Uffizi Gallery when he started to paint this canvas.
The mythological theme was the chance for the artists at the time to measure themselves against the female nude.
During his artist career, Ingres painted many times Venuses and Odalisques, venturing to paint his subjects in unconventional poses, but perfect to met with approval of the taste at that time.
The Source by Ingres is the highest point of Neoclassicism in the visual arts, where the artist tries to portray the perfection of the ancient world through the absolute control of drawing and colour.
Few years later the Impressionists would exhibit their works that would seem to be rough sketches, and the opposite of perfection.