Though Ingres preferred fame as a history painter, this aspect of his work is less appreciated today and thought to be too academic. His nudes, odalisques and portraits have proved more sympathetic to modern taste.
After training locally in Toulouse, his native region, Ingres entered the studio of David (1748–1825) in Paris in 1797. In 1801 he won the Prix de Rome but had to delay going to Italy because of a shortage of state funds. This mattered less since Napoleon had brought so many looted Italian pictures to Paris. In 1806 after painting an official portrait of Napoleon he left for the South. Paintings of his early Roman years show his mastery of the male and female nude notably in Oedipus and the Sphinx (musée du Louvre, Paris) and the Grande Baigneuse (musée du Louvre, Paris). Both are classical but softer and fleshier than the norm, which is maybe why they were ill-received by critics as insufficiently idealized. His Virgil reading the Aeneid to Augustus is more in the orthodox Davidian manner.
Books on Ingres
Gary Tinterow and Philip Conisbee, eds., Portraits by Ingres: Images of an Epoch, exh. cat., New York, 1999.
Georges Vigne, Ingres, Paris, 1995.
Robert Rosenblum, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, New York, 1967.
Henri Delaborde, Ingres, sa vie, ses travaux, sa doctrine, d’aprés les notes manuscrites et les lettres du maître, Paris, 1870.