Modern Art: Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics - Vol. 1

By Julius Meier-Graefe; Florence Simmonds et al. | Go to book overview
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INGRES

No pedagogic considerations are necessary to make us do justice, to the great men who led 'the classic movement. The furious strife between Realism and Classicism is at an end. We have dropped our battle-cries and have learnt to see something more in these people than impersonal professors. They were above all, guardians of culture, who worked a kind of cure upon neglected æsthetic instincts. They not only took over an ancient form, renewing and transforming it in a highly original manner; they received and renewed the, sense of form itself This alone, is enough to make Ingres immortal. Under him art became an expression of culture of the utmost purity, whereas under his master David it had Feigned by virtue of a turbulent grandeur that bore the unmistakable stamp of the upstart. The creator of the' Coronation was a great orator of tremendous power, the true imperial painter, who girded on Roman form as a superficial ornament that left his mighty loins free play. How little he really assimilated it may be seen when he reveals himself, as in several of his portraits; for instance, the brilliant unfinished picture of the Marquise de Pastouret by her child's cradle at the Château de Moreuil in Picardy, or the fine portraits in the Louvre, notably the beautiful picture of Madame de Sériziat with her child. In the extraordinary freshness of the colour and handling, this shows more affinity with Frans Hals than with Rome.

Ingres, on the contrary, was never realistic like this, even in his most unguarded moments. Lapauze, in his "Dessinsde J. A. D. Ingres de Montauban" quotes the dictum that Poussin would never have been the great artist he was, if he had not professed a "doctrine." With Ingres this "doctrine" was not merely a scientific theory that at excites a cheap smile to-day, but a conscious organisation of far-reaching artistic instincts. When Ingres became supreme, the great period of imperial activity was past. Men had learnt to reflect. In the land of classic art Napoleon had seen only the territory of predecessors akin to himself inspirit. Meanwhile men had drawn nearer to the soul of classic art, or rather to its divine body. Mengs' copies of the Pompeian frescoes had become widely known. Lord Elgin rescued the Parthenon sculptures, the Germans discovered the Æginetan remains. The field of art extended, and with it that of perception. David had been a disguised Roman, Ingres became a Greek, but in a very wide sense, far more universal from the purely æsthetic standpoint than Goethe, for instance. He discovered the Greek spirit in Giotto's frescoes, which he placed above those of Raphael as vehicles of expression, and copied "on his knees"; and yet he associated himself in friendly fashion with Viollet-le-Duc's tendencies. He followed after line. If later on he concentrated his sympathies more and more on the Greeks, it was because he found in them at first hand what he was seeking. He was as essentially a draughtsman as David was a painter; nay more, he was the greatest draughtsman the world has known. When the Renaissance discovered the marbles of the ancients, Italians and Frenchmen began to make statues. The age was still vigorous enough to essay the same material as that in which these masterpieces had been carried out. David tried his hand unsuccessfully at sculpture. Ingres forbore, but this renunciation concen

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