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Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Paintings Style Essay


The nineteenth century witnessed the rapid transformation of artistic styles, genres, and techniques. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is one of the artists, who filled the gap between different traditions that coexisted at that time; in particular, one can speak about Neoclassicism and Romanticism. This paper is aimed at discussing his works of this painter in more detail. Furthermore, it is vital to compare Ingres’ style with that one of Jacques-Louis David because these painters strongly influenced the work of other French painters, especially in the first half of the twentieth century. On the whole, one can say that Ingres was able to move one tradition to another by exploring different themes and using different techniques that were not typical of David. To a great extent, Ingres was able to create a different style. This is the main thesis that should be analyzed in more detail.

In order to discuss the style of Ingres, one should look at the difference between his earlier and later works because this comparison can throw light on the evolution of his style. Among them one can distinguish such painting as The Envoys of Agammemnon and his portrait of Napoleon. These are some of his most famous works. To a great extent, he was inspired by the Antiquity, and classical representation of a human being, especially the need to describe a perfect human body. Moreover, in his early paintings, Ingres attempted to describe a person who represented the power of a state and nation. This idea plays a particularly important role in his painting Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne (Burbank and Cooper 231).

Furthermore, he strongly relied on the history and literature of Ancient Rome and Greece, for example, Virgil reading to Augustus or Jupiter and Thetis (Burbank and Cooper 231). These tendencies strongly affected their earlier works of Ingres who was always attracted to the ideals of Classical Art. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that later Ingres was attracted to the ideas of Romanticism, the artistic movement which became popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century. First of all, he took great interest in oriental themes and Eastern Art. This trend is very noticeable when one speaks about the early Romantic painting (Burbank and Cooper 230).

In particular, one can refer to such a picture as La Grande Odalisque depicting a concubine in a harem (Burbank and Cooper 231). Additionally, one should speak about such a picture as The Turkish Bath which is also based on Oriental art. Apart from that, one should bear in mind that Ingres was greatly inspired with the so-called romantic character or a person who rejected the norms, values, or customs established in the community. Ingres was also inspired by this type of character, but he was also affected by the neoclassical tradition. This is one of the reasons why he created the famous painting called Oedipus and the Sphinx. Therefore, Ingres can be regarded as an artist who could combine both Neoclassical and Romantic traditions, even though he never acknowledged the influence of Romanticism on his work. This is of the main achievements that this painter made.

Furthermore, it is important to compare Ingres’ works with the painting of Louis David since the technique and styles of these artists were similar to one another in many ways. It should be noted that Jacques-Louis David who was an influential representative of Neoclassicism in France. He is famous for various paintings, for instance, The Death of Socrates or Oath of the Horatii. The pictures of David continue to attract the attention of art critics and historians. This artist was also greatly inspired by the traditions of the antiquity. Furthermore, his works are based on some of the techniques that are typical of Neoclassical paintings (Bordes 103; Walther 7).

For instance, one can mention the sharp contrast between light and dark colors or the method called chiaroscuro (Bordes 103). This is one of the details that immediately attract attention of the viewers. This approach is particularly important when speaking about such a painting as The Death of Marat1 (Bordes, 103). This technique was also employed by Ingres when he worked on his painting called La Grande Odalisque2 in which the artist also contrasts dark and light colors. Therefore, one can argue that these artists used similar painting techniques and they works resembled one another in terms of themes and techniques. This is one of the issues that should be taken into account.

One can draw other parallels between the works of Ingres and David. Both of them were greatly inspired by the images of Rome and its power. For example, one can look at the famous portrait called Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne3 (Burbank and Cooper 231). It is clear that the author wanted Napoleon to resemble Julius Caesar (Burbank and Cooper 231; Walther 7). This artwork is the painting in which Neoclassical tradition closely influenced the technique of Ingres. The image of an all-powerful emperor also appealed to Jacques-Louis David, and his famous picture called Napoleon Crossing the Alps. On the whole, these similarities are important for understanding the works of these paintings. These examples indicate that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Neoclassical tradition was important for French painters.

Nevertheless, there are several important features that distinguish the works of Ingres and David. First of all, it is important to remember about the presence of oriental motifs in the works of Ingres who wanted to explore new themes. They are not present in the paintings of David who focused his attention mostly on the Antiquity and its cultural tradition. Furthermore, David emphasized the strength of the characters who took strong-willed decisions. In contrast, Ingres often depicted people who had to resolve moral problems. Moreover, his characters could display the signs of weakness. These are the main differences between the painting of Ingres and David. These are the most important trends that should be considered. It should be kept in mind that Ingres did not view himself as a representative of romantic painting, but later art historians and critics began to regard him as a romantic painter. This is one of the main arguments that can be made.

Overall, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres is one of the painters who were able to combine different traditions. He relied on Neoclassical and Romantic styles in his work. His paintings show how different genres and techniques can be made compatible. This is why his paintings continue to enjoy popularity. His rich imagery, excellent techniques and diversity of interests appeal to later generations of artists in different countries.


The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David
Picture 1. The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David (As cited in Bordes 103)
 La Grande Odalisque by Ingres
Picture 2. La Grande Odalisque by Ingres (As cited in Burbank and Cooper 231)
Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne
Picture 3: Napoleon I on his Imperial Throne (Burbank and Cooper 231)

Works Cited

Bordes, Phillipe. Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

Burbank, Jane and F. Cooper. Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. Print.

Walther, Ingo. Masterpieces Of Western Art: A History Of Art In 900 Individual Studies from the Gothic to the Present Day, Part 1, New York: Taschen, 2002. Print.


  1. Picture 1
  2. Picture 2
  3. Picture 3
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IvyPanda. 2020. "Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Paintings Style." May 19, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jean-auguste-dominique-ingres-paintings-style/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Paintings Style'. 19 May.

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