INGRES, as we have discussed before, was famous for his portraits, including official portraits of Napoleon and idealistic renderings of nineteenth-century European artistocrats. While living in Rome, he also executed many drawings of wealthy tourists, usually family portraits full of character and charm. Here is his drawing of Charles Hayard and his daughter, Marguerite, a work which captures the subtle tenderness between a father and his child. The girl depicted is precocious, intelligent and clearly proud of her father. They seem utterly comfortable in each other’s arms. Ingres was fascinated with the clothing of the period and its interplay with personality. Here, the father’s stiff high collar and military cuffs contrast with the slim, fragile child he clasps. The drawing examines the ever-powerful tension between masculine and feminine, both necessary and incomplete. Neither smiles here, at least not in the way we tend to think of smiles today; both are content.
Ingres is famous for saying, “Le dessin c’est la probité de l’art,” or “Drawing is the probity of Art,” so great was his conviction regarding the power of the simple outline. One of his inspirations was the British sculptor and illustrator John Flaxman, whose illustrations of Homer’s poems captured action and personality with simple outline and silhouette. How is it possible that lines on paper can bring so much to life?
Odysseus in the Underworld, John Flaxman, 1792
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