29 JUNE 1867, Page 17


THERE are some strange delusions current about the relative position of French and English Art. The French have been roundly abusing the show of English pictures at the International Exhibition, and not altogether without reason, for (as all the knows by this time) our collection of pictures there is very unworthy of us—very unrepresentative of our best art. Englishi critics—with more patriotism than good judgment, perhaps—have- rushed to the defence ; and their special pleading seems to have made matters worse. A writer in the Times, doing his utmost to. parry the accusation that English artists cannot paint the nude, observed that they really did not care to paint it, any more than to. paint Holy Families and God the Father—about as extraordinary an apology as has ever been made. We are told we never attempt what classic art attempted and achieved. We answer, in effect, "Very true ; nor do we attempt what the best Christian art attempted and achieved." We paint, instead of these, sleek horses, and children in stiff muslin and blue sashes, and the • Ares; as Vie et us ar..vrc. Par Olivier Merlon. Paris: J. HeLr4.1 1867.

pattern of an India shawl—to perfection. And this, we flatter ourselves, is, at all events, better than the " nndities" and " indeeencies " of France.

There is, of course, much to be said on both sides, but it is not our business now to compare popular French pictures with popular English. That may be done to some extent at the Inter- national Exhibition. But a greater lesson may be learned by leaving the Champ de Mars to its clamour and contention, and by walking over to that wing of the Beaux Arts where may be seen—if the rare show be not closed already—the works of Jean Dominique Ingres, the grand old man who died last January, and left none to follow in his footsteps,—his footsteps so close upon Raphael and Angelo.

Those who have an opportunity of studying this collection of the painter's works will not require to be told what position must be assigned to him among the artists of France. Those who can- not enjoy this opportunity may, perhaps, read without dissatisfac- tion a short notice of his life and work. The book which M.

Olivier Merson has very lately written may help us to chronicle some passages in the troubled course of Ingres ; but we must be allowed to remark upon the incompleteness of the book. It is a skeleton ; not ill-constructed, but lacking flesh and blood. We find in it dates and names, and some attempt at criticism, but there is no representation of the man, in his habit as he lived.

The character of Ingres is not painted there ; his biography has yet to be written.

What is infinitely great in human thought and action is generally found mixed, in a strange unaccountable way, with what is infinitely little. There was something of this mixture in the character of Ingres. He was a man who persevered in all he undertook ; who was never conquered by difficulties. Yet he was stung, sometimes, into au almost childish petulance. He had the most genuine devotion to Art, and the firmest faith in those principles which he endeavoured to set forth in all his works. Such a man, if any, might "rest in Art," one would think, and waive a little of his own claim to recognition. Yet we find in lugres a craving for appreciation from the public, fol- lowed generally—when he saw that the public might praise, but

could not appreciate—by a reaction,—the feeling that was on one occasion expressed in the proud strong words, "I have done with

Paris now : I am a painter for myself alone." Experience taught him the bitter truth of Balzac's phrase, "Plus vous allez haut, moms de sympathie vous rencontrez." He had the passionate fervour of "the deep, poetic heart." It was almost as difficult for him to be impartial as to be indifferent. Yet in his pictures there is no sign of the weakness of excess. Whether he paints the deifi- cation of Homer, or Saint Symphorien going to his martyr's death, or the ideal loveliness of "La Source," or the fleshly charm of the "Odalisque," he is self-controlled and strong.

His art is great, individual, and various, but it is always -" art in obedience to laws." He was once struck with what seemed the force and feeling of a picture he saw in Italy. He went back to look at it next morning, and the charm had gone. "Yes, there is something in it," said Ingres to his com- panion, "but remember I am a Greek—let us go." It was not only that the work from which he turned wanted the Greek senti- ment of beauty ; it wanted also the moderation that in art he loved so well. Obtrusive cleverness would not satisfy Ingres : it was harmony, the ensemble, that he cared about.

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres was born at Montauban, on the 29th of August, 1780. His father was sculptor, architect, musician, and painter. With no decided gift for any one art, il faisait an pee de tout. He wished his son to be a musician ; and a musician the son became. Jean-Dominique for several years held an engagement in the orchestra of the theatre at Montauban, and his performances on the violin were often vehemently applauded.

But music was not his choice. Some engravings from Raphael fell into his hands while he was still a boy, and in secret he copied them. The father soon discovered the preference entertained by the son for painting, and Jean-Dominique was permitted to have lessons in the art of his election, provided he would not relax in his devotion to music.

The younger Ingres studied under three provincial masters, one of whom (and he was accounted the best) showed his judgment by predicting that it was in landscape painting that his young pupil was destined to be distinguished. Only in one important compo- sition, and that an unfinished one—" l'Age d'Or," at Dampierre — did Ingres ever seriously attempt the business of a landscape painter.

It was impossible for a boy of such brilliant promise to respect the masters with whom, in the country, he had had to do ; but

when, at sixteen years of age, Ingres arrived in Paris, determined to prosecute his studies under the eye of David, respect was not found wanting. He was eminently teachable, as healthy genius evens; and we may see in his admiration of David, and in his own early style—which is little but a conscientious copy of his master's—another illustration of the fact that the men of great artistic gifts and sensitive temperament are those most readily influenced by outward circumstances. Ingres was easily led: it is the best boat that best obeys the helm.

In 1801. Ingres obtained his first success, winning what is called the "great prize of Rome" by his "Embassy to the Tent of Achilles." Unfortunately the Academy was just then so poor that it could not offer to Ingres the substantial reward which usually accompanied the distinction he had gained—a five years' residence in the Villa Medicis, at Rome. The young painter remained in Paris till times changed. Several hard years were before him ; he struggled through them with bravery, and received in 1806 the licence to study in the Villa Medicis. In Rome his progress was great, but his success with the critics and the public was not equal to his merits. Before the end of this time of study he had painted the "Grande Odalisque," which for grace of line was not sur- passed by any later work ; he had finished also "Raphael et la Fornarina," a composition in which he was said to have evinced some leaning towards the romantic school which was then about to throw the classic school of David into the shade. How very false that statement was must be now sufficiently proved by the after years which he gave to the classical treatment of great sub- jects; years of cold neglect, during which he bore the standard quite alone. When Ingres was no longer a pensioner of the French Academy he still remained at Rome, getting what was almost his daily bread by the execution of slight portraits, sketched in crayon or pencil, with the easy correctness of "the faultless painter," Andrea del Sarto. In 1820 he moved to Florence, and from there, not very long afterwarde, he travelled to Paris, with the noble picture, "Le Veen de Louis Treize." He had intended to return to Florence, but at last a solid success was won. The praise awarded to "The Vow of Louis the Thirteenth" induced the painter to summon his wife from the Tuscan capital, and to settle in the capital of France. In Paris he painted the " Apo- theose d'Ilcanere," for the ceiling of the Louvre.; and in Paris he established a school for the spreading of those principles which he so firmly held, for the inculcation of the study of form, for the attainment of correctuass in design. The school soon acquired the reputation of being the beat regulated in Paris ; and if it had moulded no other painter than Hippolyte Flandrin, it would have done more good than any school of the time.

In 1834 Ingres produced "Le Martyre de Saint Symphorie,n," a picture which quite upset the statement that he was only able to grapple with classical subjects, and that in grappling with these he was only an imitator. "Le Martyre de Saint Symphorien " is not surpassed in solemn and spiritual expression by any picture of our age. But when it was first seen the "romantic school" was in vogue in France, and the great work of Ingres was consequently received, not, indeed, with the cold neglect of twenty years before, but with envy and malice, and here and there "a little dust of praise." The painter willingly retired from Paris, with its stir and trouble, and sought quiet in the direction of the French Academy at' Rome. When he came back, several years afterwards, opposition had died oat. He had painted the classic " Stratouice." This certainly was not a picture

"O'er which, from level stand, The low world laid its band, Found straightway to its mind; could value in a trice."

Yet by one of those sudden and unaccountable changes of sentiment which may be noticed in respect to all art—for popular opinion is variable as the wind—the " Stratonice" was enthusi- astically received. Henceforth Ingres was the acknowledged chief of French painters. "Jesus Christ au Milieu des Docteurs," a portrait of " Cherubini" (one amongst many portraits conspicuous for life and power), and "La Source " (which Londoners admired in 1862), are perhaps the best specimens of the different kinds of work undertaken by Ingres within the last quarter of a century.

if, as has been said by an English writer who is not too favour- ably disposed towards the productions of the greatest of the French painters, there perished with Ingres the last attempt to bring the principles of classic art to bear upon the treatment of suchaubjects as are chosen in our day, it will at least be granted that the attempt was nobly made and steadfastly supported. Ingres, at all events, knew how to combine the highest ideal with the best natural—the "broad utterance of the early gods," with the finish and realism that are popular now.