Ingres and the Moderns

Ingres portraitist

Ingres Madame de Sononnes.jpg
Photo: MNBAQ

Portrait of Madame de Sononnes

The exhibition «Ingres and the moderns» also presents several of Ingres portraits, some of them oil paintings, others preparatory studies and close to finish drawings.   Among them, is the remarkable portrait of his pregnant wife: Madeleine Chapelle.    Ingres has often been quoted as saying that "drawing is the probity of art".  This portrait does prove his point, revealing his love for pure lines that convey the pure sensuality of the sitter, his beloved wife in this case.  Whereas her body and headdress show sketched lines, particular care is given to her face where her glance, her faint smile and the position of her hands tell of the fullness of her womanhood, her affection for the man whose child she is bearing.

The posture of the subject, in Ingres' portraits is always indicative of the sitter's emotional and physical state.   In the portraits of Madame Aymon (1906) and Madame de Sononnes (1916), the clothing and accessories are also significant. It is interesting to compare these two portraits for they allow us to evaluate the artist's development both as a man and as a painter over a period of ten years.   In deed, we go from a composition "a la Raphael": a figure against an almost plain background, to a portrait where space is dealt with in a much more elaborate fashion.   There is also a different attitude toward details, an abundance of which we find in Madame de Sononnes' portrait.   The treatment of light, color and texture is also very different.  Bright and even in the earlier work, it is warm and more theatrical in the later work that demonstrates the painter's talent in combining harmoniously colors, lines and textures.   Far from being superfluous, the excess of satin, velvet, lace and jewellery only add the lady's charm.  As a matter of fact, Ingres judges her so eye pleasing that he adds a mirror to the composition which gives a rear view of her, making her in a way more present.

Also different and remarkable is Ingre's portrait of his friend Jean-Baptiste Desdedan.  The subject is given the greatness of illustrious men whose profile is rendered eternal on coins, medals and vignettes.  Light, here again, plays an important role. Coming from the left, it models the face.   Illuminated by this same light, the white shirt also draws attention to the profile.  It appears framed in the upper half of the paining by a harmony of reddish browns while an interesting play of lines animates the lower half.

Information on this particular work mentions the fact that it is unfinished.  It may be so, but the way form, space, light and color are handled in this paintings positions Ingres, a neoclassical painter, a frustrated musician, closer to those twentieth century artists who found enough interest in his work to come under his influence.  And, this is what the Museum's exhibition is about.