Ingres Then, and Now

Ingres Then, and Now

Ingres Then, and Now

Ingres Then, and Now


Ingres Then, and Now is an innovative study of one of the best-known French artists of the nineteenth century, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres. Adrian Rifkin re-evaluates Ingres' work in the context of a variety of literary, musical and visual cultures which are normally seen as alien to him. Re-viewing Ingres' paintings as a series of fragmentary symptoms of the commodity cultures of nineteenth-century Paris, Adrian Rifkin draws the artist away from his familiar association with the Academy and the Salon.Rifkin sets out to show how, by thinking of the historical archive as a form of the unconscious, we can renew our understanding of nineteenth-century conservative or academic cultures by reading them against their 'other'. He situates Ingres in the world of the Parisian Arcades, as represented by Walter Benjamin, and examines the effect of this juxtaposition on how we think of Benjamin himself, following Ingres' image in popular cultures of the twentieth century. Rifkin then returns to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to find traces of the emergence of bizarre symptoms in Ingres' early work, symptoms which open him to a variety of conflicting readings and appropriations. It concludes by examining his importance for the great French art critic Jean Cassou on the one hand, and in making a bold, contemporary gay appropriation on the other. Ingres Then, and Now transforms the popular image we have of Ingres. It argues that the figure of the artist is neither fixed in time or place - there is neither an essential man named Ingres, nor a singular body of his work - but is an effect of many, complex and overlapping historical effects.


'Qui suis-je?' ai-je demandé.

'Qui suis-je?' ai-je répondu.

La repetition est, dans sa difference, accomplissement.

Edmond Jabès, Elya

Il n'y a pas de parole sans réponse, même si elle ne rencontre que le silence, pourvu qu'elle ait un auditeur.

Jacques Lacan

This is a book about what I call the staging of an artist. By this I mean the mise-en-scène, the framing of an artist as he is figured in the histories that precede him, as well as in those histories that he makes or that are made around him. Hence the title, 'Ingres then, and now'. 'Then' is the historical possibility of Ingres' emergence as an individual, 'now' is the ongoing politics of his condensation as such, the investment of value, as of values, in his figure. 'Staging' is the elaboration of a series of overlapping frames, set-ups or viewpoints which share some of their signs or contents, but which otherwise are quite specific or sui generis. And their sharing of materials suggests not so much a continuity of meaning as a difference within these materials, an unevenness and instability of their signifying in histories of art. Questions of 'who am I?' or 'what is s/he or it?', which are as likely to articulate the subject or being of an artist as they are the being and the subjects of the historian, answer themselves in practices of making art or writing history. As my two incipits with their three voices propose, these processes are voluntary and involuntary, a play of intentionality and chance in the making of a space for meaning.

To think this through as staging is to allow for a certain artifice in the configuration of statements and gestures that seem to condense moments of historical complexity or grant a temporary distinctness to the ways in which the threads of overdetermination knot together. And so my stages are

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