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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres - Biography
Born in Montauban on 29 August, 1780, the son of an unsuccessful sculptor and painter. Ingres studied at the art academy in Toulouse before joining the studio of Jacques-Louis David in 1797. Ingres, who was David's best student, began his career in obscurity. Though he personally disliked the Academy and avoided the Salon, Ingres has come to be identified with its goals and viewed as an artistic conservative. But, despite his allegiance to clear and precise form, balanced compositions, and idealised beauty, he shared much of the same interest in exotic and erotic subject matter that had attracted the Romantics.

Ingres was a sensitive and painstaking draughtsman. For him, drawing was the very heart of painting, and he drew and redrew whatever he was to paint until he understood all its elements and their subtlest interrelations. Though he valued history painting above all else, he also often produced portraits, some of the best of which are drawings. Having been awarded the Prix de Rome by the Academy for his painting The Envoys from Agamemnon, which included a stay in Rome, Ingres decided to remain there after his stipend ended in 1810. Ingres remained in Rome from 1806 to 1820, and it was there that he developed his extraordinary gifts for drawing and design. He helped support himself by making portrait drawings of visitors to Rome. These drawings are skilful, concise masterpieces. Ingres's outstanding evocation of place, light, and character in these seemingly casual portrait drawings established him as one of the most revered draughtsmen in art history.

Even in his portraits Ingres exhibited a sensual feeling that was more often expressed in the nudes that preoccupied him as he got older and his style developed. His Turkish Women at the Bath, produced at 82 years of age, is the culmination of his portrayals of female nudes.

Leaving Rome in 1820, Ingress went to Florence for 4 years. Returning to Paris in 1824, he was applauded for his painting The Vow of Louis XIII, exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1824. He accepted the directorship of the French Academy of Rome in 1834, and at the end of his 7-year term he returned again to Paris and was welcomed enthusiastically as one of the greatest painters in France. His reputation was established and his works commanded high prices. He was given the rank of commander of the Legion of Honour in 1845. At the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1855 he was awarded a gold medal (as was Delacroix, leader of the Romantic Movement).

Ingres died in Paris on 14 January, 1867.

Contributed by Gifford, Katya

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