Ingres and the moderns part III

The legacy

Cindy Sherman's self portait.jpg
Photo: MNBAQ

Cindy Sherman's self portrait - 1989

Throughout his career, Ingres was very influenced by the old masters and he, himself, hoped that his work would inspire the younger generations.  Actually, this is one of the reasons why, from 1826 on, he was interested in having lithographs made of his paintings.   Well his wish was granted.  As one would expect, Ingres’ influence is most obvious in the copies made of his works. Artists believe, and it’s a fact that copying a master is the best way to understand his technique. And so, in the show, are almost identical copies, almost because many will agree that it’s extremely difficult to make an Ingres.  But the master’s influence here is not solely on the technical level.  It comes across as well in the reinterpretation of some of the subjects and genres he chose to deal with.   Ingres’ portrait of Madame de Sononnes is obviously the source for this self portrait of American contemporary photographer Cindy Sherman.  The posture of Madame de Sononnes, the mirror behind her, and the note in her hand; the rich fabrics and the jewels are echoed in this life size photograph.  Also, the famous Turkish bath was most certainly the inspiration for the large painting by Sylvia Sleigh, a feminist painter, for which her husband and his colleagues posed as models.   If in deed such comparisons are obvious, others are less so and the link is at times difficult to establish.  One of them in particular definitely requires some background information.  Across form the Orpheus and the Sphinx, is a chromogenic photograph by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz in which the principal figures of Ingres’ painting are outlined in the midst of refused materials taken from junk yards and city dumps.  The artist’s intention in this work can only be understood through the knowledge of some of the myths and legends of ancient Greece.   In Ingres’s final version of Oedipus, on the bottom left we can see a man fleeing the city of Thebes, a city Oedipus ruled over after he liberated it from the tyranny of the Sphinx and after he unknowingly killed his father, the king, and married his mother the queen.   Because of this double crime (patricide and incest) the city fell under the curse of a leprosy epidemic.   With that in mind, Muniz’ message seems evident and well in tune with those of environmentally concerned individuals and organisations.  The exhibition "Ingres and the moderns" is at the Musée des Beaux-arts du Quebec until May 31.