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Success at last

Success at last

12 Nov 2013 BY Tim Wells

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was born in Montauban in 1780. His early artistic studies sent him firmly along the neoclassical path, with its reverence for clarity of vision and orthodox technique. Ingres soon became his own man however, and some of his artistic idiosyncrasies set the Paris Salon into high dudgeon; notably, his somewhat Gothic tendency to exaggerate form for expressive purposes, giving his Odalisque several extra vertebrae in the process, for example. The rather susceptible Ingres vowed never to return to Paris, and having won the Prix de Rome, left for Italy, where amidst the political upheaval he found himself forced to rely on drawing pencil portraits. In 1820 he moved to Florence, home of his beloved Raphael, where a commission arrived via an old childhood friend to paint “The Vow of Louis XIII” for the Cathedral of his birthplace, Montauban. This work brought Ingres the success at the Salon that had long eluded him, along with the Legion d’Honneur, and a thriving studio that would produce some of the world’s great masterpieces. Some of these, as well as a rotating collection of his drawings and some personal effects including his famous violin, are displayed in Montauban’s Musée Ingres, a 1664 Episcopal palace overlooking the Tarn dedicated in 1843 to Ingres and another of Montauban’s favourite sons, the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle.