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INGRES: Painting the Romantic Beauty

Theme: Understanding the figurative Paintings

Figurative Painting: If we are to select any genre of painting that has got favour and protest in equal proportion, surely it would be the art of figurative painting. Especially the paintings of women in their natural beauty have remained the cause of concern for the society, artists and viewers. Collection of the paintings by Jean Ingress goes one step further; every eye, including a critical one, would not miss staring to these paintings.

The Bather of Valpençon -by Jean Ingres

From the time we cannot trace out, artists have tried adoring the beauty embedded in human body. May it be the paintings of Venus, the Goddess of love; may it be carvings on the walls of temples at Khajuraho, India; or may it be the statues of marbles from ancient Roman era;the artists are equally fascinated by natural beauty of human figure. Getting much praise and attention of art lovers of is obvious. But the protest mainly has come form the so called guards of culture. It is because they have mixed two different aspects: the state of a person that is in the state of ‘cloteh-less-ness’ and the state of the person who is just in his or her natural beauty.

Does The Clothe-less Model Feel Defenceless?

It is doubtless that a person would feel uncomfortable in a state of cloth-less situation; and he or she would feel some sort of defencelessness, too. But when a person, a man or a woman, is modelling for figurative painting, he or she is not merely a cloth-less body. Here the model is neither defenceless nor feeling any shame or guilt; the person is well-balanced and feels proud of being so beautifully depicted in a natural pose.

If we look at the above painting by the master artist Ingress we can see the difference discussed above. Were we to evaluate the real natural beauty of a female, in its proper sense, this painting is one of the best examples. It may happen that while being portrayed or painted so cloth-less, a woman would like to look be depicted herself as the most desired object for looking at. She would love to be looking sensual and beautiful, larger than the life. But the brush strokes of a master painter like Ingress would immortalize a woman modeling for his painting. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Ingres Painting Romantic Women

Theme: Painting reclining Cloth-less female. Painting the natural beauty of women, using soft and smooth brush stokes.

The Grand Odalisque
Oil On Canvass
Size 91 × 162 cm
Louvre Musium Paris

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780 –1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. His paintings suggest that he had tilted his work towards romanticism movement of painting. Like other struggling artists, Ingress had also depended on income received from miscellaneous pencil drawings he did for tourists, for a period. La Grande Odalisque is one of his memorable paintings, which he did on a commission in 1814.

Here the reclining woman in her natural beauty looks passive. Her visual attitudes show such things. She has an inactive fan in her hand showing some activity. But her clueless eyes shown on canvas are not inviting anyone. But such passivity coupled with her disarranged curtain and tumbled bed sheets can be seductive to many of the viewers’ eyes. This type of scene makes us supposing that someone, a dear person to the lady, has just left the scene.

Ingres's paintings suggest that he tilted his work from neo-classism to romanticism type of painting.

Odalisque in Grisaille - Oil On canvass 83.2 x 109.2 cm Metropolitan Museum New York

La Grande Odalisque or Grande Odalisque, depicting a concubine, had received enormous amount of criticism for its unrealistic proportions of the model’s body. Ingres had painted many portraits showing backside of the women models’ figure; La Grande Odalisque is one of them. In this painting the artists had done the masterly use of line. Look at the curvatures of the woman reclining on bed. We cannot miss noticing that these are conveying curvatures. Such a masterly depiction has helped infusing element of sensuality in the painting. Ingress was known for such art of conveying.

The colour scheme of the painting also matches the overall theme of conceived by the artist. While the use of yellow colour had infused sensuality in the female figure, the gaze of the woman is showing her as a thoughtful person. Ingres had tried painting another painting like La Grande Odalisque. Though that painting remained unfinished, Ingres included that unfinished work, named as Odalisque in Grisaille in stock of paintings.(Images Courtesy Wikimedia commons)

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