The 18th and 19th Centuries


(Neoclassicism, Romanticism and Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map)


Neoclassicism and Romanticism



Nicolai Abraham

see collection:

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres


Romanticism was not so much a style or manner as a multifaceted movement that
represented changing ideas and a new artistic sensibility. Various themes characterized
this sensibility, from patriotism and nostalgia to the probing of the depths of the soul.
Individualism and the cult of the self combined to create a mood that found
its expression in a number of different artistic outlets.

Higurative art played a vital role in the European movement known as Romanticism, which began in music, literature, and the theatre, and only later embraced painting and sculpture. It emerged in the late 18th century and continued to evolve throughout the 19th century. The term encompassed various concepts, such as man versus nature, the complexity of the psyche, religion, politics, and history. Unlike the preceding artistic movement, Neoclassicism, which was expressed through an easily recognized style and precise forms, Romanticism had less clearly defined outlines. It was an indication of mood as well as taste, a collective expression of the prevailing European spirit - often accompanied by a degree of extreme emotion.

A Romantic Neoclassicism?

As Neoclassicism turned to antiquity for its ideal models, so Romanticism yearned for an alternative to everyday reality, aspiring to the truth of the soul and the freedom of irrational impulses. The similarities between these two stylistic trends became more obvious during the decades leading into the 19th century, at which point they more or less coincided - for example, in the work of Ingres. Neoclassicism and Romanticism are two sides of the same coin - both movements reacted to the extravagance of the Rococo style by returning to human values, but whereas Neoclassicism was driven purely by reason, Romanticism was motivated and led by emotion. Antonio Canova's statue in marble of Cupid and Psyche (1787-93), although quintessentially Neoclassical in style and structure, marked the boundary between Neoclassicism and Romanticism. This work unconsciously reflects the Romantic concept of humankind's perpetual longing for the unattainable, in that the embrace of the two figures demonstrates the beauty of an unfulfilled union. The longing for a distant and seemingly more appealing age (albeit that of the ancient world) is a fundamentally Romantic notion. Thus, a powerful and emotional undercurrent finds its way into the paintings of David, particularly in his depictions of individual pathos, more usually in female subjects. These are typically bestowed with an aura of dignify and nobility, or a collective sense of despair and passion. In contrast to the serene classicism advocated by Winckelmann, there are blood-curdling scenes, such as Lica being hurled away with brute force by Hercules in Canova's sculpture (1795-1802); similar subjects are also present in the work of Flaxman.
Anti-naturalism and the more explicit themes of the early Romantic movement emerged against the historical background of the restoration of the monarchy in France. One artist who stands out during this period is Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767-1824). Of his best-known works, Endymion Sleeping (1793), has a dreamlike quality: Shadows of French Heroes who Died for their Countiy Gathered in Heaven by Ossian (1800-02) is a veritable phantasmagoria; Mile Lange as Danae (1799) shocked its audience with its forthright eroticism; while both La Pieta (1787) and The Funeral of Atala (1808) displayed unconventional religious feeling. The language of natural forces, both within and around humankind, had by now established itself, and would go on to find its most exuberant expression in the Romanticism of Henry Fuseli, William Blake, Caspar David Friedrich, Theodore Gericault, Ingres, and Goya. If it is true that "from the sleep of reason monsters are begotten" (Goya), it is also true that a rationalist Utopia has, at its innermost core, a mysterious and superhuman background inhabited by obscure feelings, arcane voices, and echoes from a fantastical world. Typical examples of these elements are the angelic figures portrayed by the German artist Philipp Otto Runge (1777-1810), the rampant exoticism presented in the work of Delacroix, and the troubled skies painted by Constable and Turner.



The works of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) represent the apotheosis of the Neoclassical style, while equally hinting at future developments in art. His canvases - particularly his early works - portray all the elements of formal splendour, sober elegance, and an adherence to models of the past (above all the works of Raphael, who he studied in Italy). In his later paintings, a subtle sensibility, a widespread sensuous-ness, and an extraordinary psychological insight were expressed, forming a transitional link between 18th-century art and the French painting of the Second Empire. In his teacher David's work, it was the moral and political subject matter that achieved supremacy, while in that of his own it was the purity of form, developed through the sometimes artificial exquisiteness of proportions. These were calculated to emphasize the eroticism and delicate sensuality of his nudes and to give the illusion of a perfect balance. However, Ingres was harshly criticized for this by David: "weak feet, hands...arms and legs a third too short or too long." In an official work such as Napoleon I Crowned (1806), the emphasis of the curves and diagonals were in total opposition to Neoclassical composition. For the poet Charles Baudelaire, the work evoked "an impression that is hard to explain, and which, in itself, sums up in indefinable proportions uneasiness, annoyance, anxiety." Ingres' bathers - one of his favourite themes - odalisques, and Oriental women represented an exercise in "academic perfection", marking the birth of a style characterized by a languid, soft, expressive eroticism that was very different from that of artists such as Boucher and Fragonard. His later portraits of European nobility best illustrate the great psychological depth of his work.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Napoleon I Crowned


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Roger Freeing Angelica
Musee du Louvre, Paris

The Renaissance tales of Ariosto were transposed by Ingres into a romantic setting,
in which he could demonstrate his mastery of the nude.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Roger Freeing Angelica

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres
Madame Moitessier
National Gallery, London

The precision and richness of detail in the costume enhance the sensual beauty
of the flesh and the graceful curves of the body.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
The Dream of Ossian
Musee Ingres, Montauban, France

James Macpherson published his bogus odes by Ossian in 1762-63,
a work full of themes that would be picked up by the Romantics.
Half a century later, Ingres used them as his inspiration for this painting.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Luigi Cherubini and the Muse of Lyric Poetry
Musee du Louvre, Paris

A difficult and controversial painting, this portrait of the most famous Parisian
composer of the day combines classical iconography with a perceptive
portrayal of the subject wearing the dress of the modern intellectual.



Born at Montauban, France, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres first studied in Toulouse, before enrolling at David's studio in Paris in 1797. He became the most admired and influential of the French painters, his studio frequented by countless leading figures of society. He was Director of the French Academy in Rome and Professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, just two of many official appointments and honours.


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Self-Portrait at age 24


Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born Aug. 29, 1780, Montauban, France
died Jan. 14, 1867, Paris

painter and icon of cultural conservatism in 19th-century France. Ingres became the leader of the French tradition of Neoclassical painting after the death of Jacques-Louis David. He was also one of the finest portraitists of his century. Ingres's cool, meticulously drawn works were the antithesis of the contemporary Romantic school. His historical paintings display his lifelong obsession with line and contour, while his female nudes reveal a sensuality unique to Neoclassicism.

Early life and works

Ingres received his first artistic instruction from his father, Jean-Marie-Joseph Ingres (1755–1814), an artistic jack-of-all-trades of modest talent but considerable professional and social pretensions. Ingres's formal education at the school of the Brothers of Christian Doctrine was cut short by the abolition of religious orders in France in 1791, during the Revolution. So he was sent to study at the fine arts academy in Toulouse instead. Six years later, in 1797, he set out for Paris, where he entered the studio of the most celebrated artist in France, the Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. Two years later Ingres was accepted into the École des Beaux-Arts (“School of Fine Arts”). The culmination of his artistic education occurred in 1801, when he was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome. Ingres's prizewinning painting, “The Envoys of Agamemnon,” demonstrates his mastery of the standard academic pictorial vocabulary as well as his attraction to modish stylistic archaisms.

Because the French treasury, strained by Napoleon's wars, was unable to pay for his scholarship in Rome, Ingres was forced to remain in Paris, where he began to distinguish himself as a portraitist. In 1804 he fulfilled his first official commission in this genre, “Bonaparte as First Consul” (Museum of Fine Arts, Liège). In 1806 he attracted public attention with a display of five portraits at the official exhibition of contemporary art known as the Salon. Four of these paintings were standard exercises in Davidian Neoclassicism—a trio of portraits of members of the Rivière family (now in the Louvre Museum, Paris) and a rather swaggering “Self-Portrait” (Condé Museum, Chantilly). Much more original was a portrait of “Napoleon on his Imperial Throne” (1804; Museum of the Army, Paris), an intimidating effigy of absolutism incarnate that is executed in a willfully stiff and archaic style reminiscent of 15th-century Flemish masters. The critics were unanimous in their condemnation of this work and branded Ingres's self-consciously primitivizing manner as “Gothic.” It would take the artist two decades to shake this pejorative label.

In 1806 Ingres finally set off for Italy, where he did little to counter his burgeoning reputation as an enfant terrible. The academicians were disconcerted by the linear severity and the restrained colours of the two paintings he sent back to Paris in 1808: the famous “Valpinçon Bather” (Louvre Museum, Paris) and “Oedipus and the Sphinx” (Louvre). The culminating production of Ingres's student years in Rome, the large mythological painting “Jupiter and Thetis” (1811; Granet Museum, Aix-en-Provence), proved no less provocative. In the fantastically fluid, seemingly boneless body of the sea nymph Thetis, Ingres prominently displayed what would become one of the most distinguishing features of his mature art: an audacious reconfiguration of the female anatomy.

Mature life and works.

When Ingres's tenure as a student at the French Academy inRome expired in 1810, he opted to remain in Italy, where he had begun to establish himself as a portraitist of Napoleonic officials and dignitaries. He also received occasional commissions in the more prestigious genre of history painting. In 1811 he was invited to participate in the redecoration of the Quirinal Palace, which was in the process of being transformed into Napoleon's official residence in Rome. Ingres's contribution consisted of two monumental canvases: “Romulus, Conqueror of Acron” (1812) and “The Dream of Ossian” (1813).

This period of relative prosperity ended abruptly in 1815 with the fall of the Napoleonic empire and the evacuation of Rome by the French. Desperate for work, Ingres resorted to executing small-scale portrait drawings of English and other tourists. An almost uncanny control of delicate yet firm line, and an unending inventiveness in posing his sitters in a manner to reveal personality through shrewdly observed characteristic gestures, combined with a capacity to record an exact likeness, make this category of Ingres's drawings unique. Though these pencil portrait drawings are among Ingres's most widely admired works, he himself scorned them as mere potboilers. Despite his supreme gifts as a portraitist, Ingres throughout his life professed to disdain portraiture and strove instead to establish his credentials as a creator of grand historical paintings.

But commissions for monumental works were hard to come by, so Ingres contented himself with subject painting on a more restrained scale. It was during this period that he emerged as a master of medieval and Renaissance subjects executed in a purposefully primitivizing style recalling the artistic mannerisms of the age of the scenes being depicted. These canvases did little to shield him from the attacks of the critics, however, who continued to portray him as a kind of savage primitive intent on taking art back to its infancy. A hostile response likewise greeted what would become one of the artist's most celebrated canvases, the “Grande Odalisque” (1814; Louvre). Exhibited in the 1819 Salon, this painting elicited outrage from critics, who ridiculed its lack of conventional modeling as well as Ingres's habitual anatomical distortions of the female nude.

It was as a religious painter that Ingres, who moved from Rome to Florence in 1820, finally began to turn the critical tide in his favour. The artist adopted a more conventional classicizing style—one based directly on the example of his hero Raphael—for “The Vow of Louis XIII” (1824; Notre-DameCathedral, Montauban), a blatant piece of pro-Bourbon propaganda celebrating the union of church and state. This picture was a spectacular success at the 1824 Salon, earning the artist his first critical accolades as well as election to the Academy of Fine Arts. Thus, in the span of a single exhibition, Ingres went from being one of the most vilified artists in France to one of the most celebrated.

Heartened by the success of “The Vow of Louis XIII,” Ingres, who had accompanied the picture to Paris, resolved to remain in France. In 1825 he opened a teaching studio, which quickly became one of the largest and most important in Paris. Two years later, at the Salon of 1827, Ingres followed up the success of the “Vow” with his most ambitious history painting, “The Apotheosis of Homer” (Louvre). The “Apotheosis” is a vast historical group portrait that summarizes the development of classical culture in the West. This work is not only a resounding manifesto of Neoclassicism but also a memorial to the narrow-minded, prejudicial brand of cultural conservatism with which Ingres would be linked for the rest of his career.

Despite having achieved his first real success under the stewardship of the Bourbon kings of France, Ingres rallied to the more liberal Orléanist regime that arose out of the Revolution of 1830. In 1832 he produced the “Portrait of Monsieur Bertin” (Louvre), a pictorial paean to the utter tenacity of the newly empowered middle class. Ingres's masterful characterization of his pugnacious sitter, along with the portrait's mesmerizing realism, won the artist great popular success at the 1833 Salon.

In 1829 Ingres had been named professor at the École des Beaux-Arts, and in 1834 and 1850 he served as president of that institution. But already by 1833 he stood accused of artistic imperialism—of attempting to impose his personal style on the entire French school of painting. Such charges dominated the critical discourse in 1834, when the artist exhibited the “Martyrdom of Saint-Symphorien” (St. Lazare Cathedral, Autun). Rumoured beforehand to be his definitive masterpiece, this monumental religious canvas was violently attacked by critics on the political and cultural left and was defended no less vehemently by Ingres's allies on the right. Deeply wounded by the lack of universal approbation, the notoriously hypersensitive Ingres announced his intention never again to exhibit at the Salon. He also solicited and received the post of director of the French Academy in Rome, and set off for Italy in 1834.

Ingres's tenure as director of the French Academy in Rome was dominated by administrative and teaching duties. During his six-year stint in Rome, he completed only three major canvases: the so-called “Virgin with the Host” (1841), the “Odalisque with Slave” (1840; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.), and “Antiochus and Stratonice” (1840). The exhibition of the latter painting turned the critical tide in Ingres's favour once more. Primed by this success, Ingres in 1841 made a triumphal return to Paris, where he dined with the king and was publicly feted at a banquet attended by more than 400 political and cultural dignitaries.

Late life and works

Ingres had finally secured his status as the greatest living artist in France. The darling of the Orléanist elite, he continued to showcase his works in a series of exclusive, semipublic exhibitions and also received several prestigious decorative commissions, none of which, however, he ever fulfilled. Terrified by the spectre of social and political chaos during the Revolution of 1848, Ingres welcomed the declaration of the Second Empire under Napoleon III in 1852.

It is ironic that, given his pretensions as a history painter, Ingres's major accomplishment during his later years continued to be in the genre of portraiture. By the mid-1850s he was the most sought-after society portraitist in Paris. Ingres was particularly adept at capturing the grace and splendour—as well as the ostentation and vulgarity—of the feminine elite. Among his most beautiful portraits in this genre are the “Comtesse d'Haussonville” (1845; Frick Collection, New York), the “Baronne de Rothschild” (1848), the “Princesse de Broglie” (1853; Metropolitan Museum, New York), and two portraits of the renowned beauty Mme. Inès Moitessier that he painted in 1851 and 1856 (now in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., and the National Gallery, London, respectively).

After having boycotted the Salon for more than two decades, Ingres was coaxed into entering an official public exhibitiononce again on the occasion of the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1855. The critical reaction to the 69 works he displayed there was predictably mixed: conservative reviewers hailed him as a kind of artistic messiah, while more progressive critics denounced his hackneyed style as utterly irrelevant to the modern age. The government mollified the wounded artist by elevating him to the rank of Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour; he was the first literary or artistic figure to achieve this lofty honour. In 1862 Ingres became one of the first professional painters to be appointed to the Senate.

The most notable works Ingres painted late in his career are female nudes. In 1856 he completed “The Source” (Orsay Museum, Paris), a disturbingly vacuous representation of an adolescent girl that became one of his most celebrated canvases during his lifetime. But his culminating achievement in the genre of the female nude was the much more complex, multi figure “Turkish Bath” (1862; Louvre).

Ingres died in 1867. He bequeathed to Montauban, his native city, the contents of his studio. In addition to about 4,000 drawings (the studies, sketches, and working drawings of a lifetime), the bequest included several of his own paintings, the paintings in his private collection, and his reference library. All of this is now housed in the Ingres Museum at Montauban.


For most of the first half of the 19th century, Ingres was a champion of line and of firm contour, of subtly graded, clear colour, and of carefully balanced composition. He viewed with contempt the dramatic chiaroscuro, the turbulent movement, and the tense emotional context of his chief rival, the Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix. Ingres's death marked the symbolic end of the tradition of monumental history painting in French art. By this time contemporary life, rather than the exploits of the ancient Greeks and Romans, had already begun emerging as the dominant subject matter of modern painting. The finality of Ingres's passing was rendered all the more evident by his lack of talented pupils; despite having been surrounded by a group of fanatical devotees, the artist left no one behind to carry the torch. Time has dimmed the acrimony of the quarrels of Ingres's epoch and made clearer the quality of his genuine, if rather self-contradictory, genius. His position as one of the truly great painters of the 19th century is now secure, and his considerable influence upon Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, and other modernists is now generally acknowledged.

Andrew Carrington Shelton




1808; 188.x 149 cm (73x58 in): Musee du Louvre, Paris.


Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres
Oedipus and the Sphinx


Ingres increased the original measurements of this picture before exhibiting it at the Paris Salon, probably in 1825. The subject is the meeting between Oedipus and the sphinx in a desolate place at the gates of Thebes. The painting shows a rocky cave in which the nude figure of the prince confronts the mythical monster. Over his right shoulder, the hero wears a red mantle, which falls against his left thigh. His left foot is placed on a large rock, and two spears lean against his right shoulder, their points resting on the rock. To the left, the sphinx sits in the shadows on a pile of rocks. wrhile below, in the foreground, a foot and some bones are depicted. These are remains of the sphinx's victims -wayfarers she has eaten for failing to find an answer to her riddles. On the lower right of the composition, an animated male figure gestures in the distance.

The figure of Oedipus dominates the composition - it was even more prominent in the original smaller picture, the dimensions of which are outlined in white. The figure occupies a large part of the space and is the focus of lighting. In the larger painting, the dark space around the luminous body has increased, and the artist has arranged four points of light to provide counterpoint to the shape of the nude figure. These are: top left, the breast of the sphinx; top right, the Leonardo-style eye of light among the rocks; below right, the suffused gleam on the line of the horizon; and below left, the foot of a victim. The polygon obtained by joining the points of light contains the human elements of the scene. The composition can be seen to be based on two opposing curves, as indicated by the red lines. The principal figures are contained in a sort of almond shape that inclines towards the top left-hand corner.

Taking inspiration from the classical world and Neo-Platonic thought, Ingres has structured the hit man figure using geometric forms of precise symbolic significance. The picture contains a square, a triangle, and a circle. The square represents terrestrial solidity, stability, and balance and is placed in the space created between the bent and straight legs of Oedipus. The triangle, also a stable form, but dynamic and linked to the world of the emotions, is positioned between the arm and the torso, seats of the heart and the liter. The circle, enclosing the head, is the shape of harmony, without beginning or end.

The light that illuminates Oedipus and the rocks in the foreground comes from an undefined source but falls upon the stone and the golden skin of the figure. The nude figure stands out against the dark background, its outline drawn with sharp precision. This is very evident in the right leg. where the full light on the calf fades by fine gradations into the shadow of the foot and upper thigh. In the luminous masses on the left-hand side of the painting, the draughtsmanship is also very strong. The breast of the sphinx, defined by the light and the chiaroscuro, has a sumptuous maternal nudity that alludes to the later tragedy that was to befall Oedipus. (After he had solved the sphinx's riddle, the monster killed herself. Oedipus's fate was to marry his own mother who. when she discovered the truth, hanged herself.)

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres
Oedipus and the Sphinx

The stable posture of Oedipus contrasts with the motion of the small figure on the right: the red and orange-red mantles unite the two figures, warming their flesh tones. In both cases, the material is creased or fluttering in the breeze in contrast with the smooth and solid mass of the naked flesh. This detail shows Oedipus meeting the eye of the sphinx, with his forefinger curved towards her breast. The clarity of the scene leaves no room for mystery or ambiguity.

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres
Oedipus and the Sphinx

The sole of a human foot is illuminated against the darkness in the bottom left of the painting, while a pile of bones and a skull are outlined against the rocks in the foreground. Tide superb contours and lucidity of form outline a tragic still life. With the sphinx positioned above, space for the dead is contained in the left-hand side of the composition. Space for the living, in the form of the gesturing figure in the distance, is on the right. Oedipus is positioned firmly in the centre, his fate undecided.



Continuity and Renewal

During the Neoclassical phase, which partly overlapped with early Romanticism, there were hints of the styles and ideas that would follow. Neoclassical artists had already sought to distance themselves from the gaudiness and fussy over-decoration of the preceding Rococo style. They tackled moral problems, the clash of ideals, and the concept of a harmony that is both external and spiritual (as expounded by the art historian Johann Winckelmann, who was one of the key theorists of Neoclassicism). However, the Romantics went further than the Neoclassical artists would ever have contemplated, even though both were searching for the same truths about the human soul. They attempted to explore a deeper, darker level of the human spirit, moving definitively away from the shallowness of the Rococo movement. At the same time, the Romantics recovered some of the more troubled and dramatic themes examined during the Baroque period. During the 19th century there was a distinct change in attitude towards the aesthetic and ethical model of the ancient Greeks, which, since the Renaissance had by and large provided the basis for artistic endeavour. For Goethe, this change in attitude became a seminal period of insight in the development of man and his acquisition of spiritual maturity. Later, the writings of Nietzsche would address the disturbing, irrational aspects that lay hidden beneath the polished, sophisticated image of Greek civilization. The notion of antiquity as the essence of natural harmony was challenged by Edmund Burke in his Inquiry into the Origin of our Idea on the Sublime and Beautiful (1756), which argued against the finite concept of beauty and the classical conception of nature as harmony. Antiquity was interpreted in an non-classical way by the Danish artist Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard (1743-1809) and, later, by the Swiss-born artist Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), as well as by other visionary painters. The occult, the significance of dreams, notions of infinity, a yearning for distant and exotic lands, anxiety, and the predominance of emotions were among the wide variety of themes that concerned the Romantics.


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard

(b Copenhagen, 11 Sept 1743; d Frederiksdal, Copenhagen, 4 June 1809).

Danish painter, designer and architect. His paintings reveal both Neo-classical and Romantic interests and include history paintings as well as literary and mythological works. The variety of his subject-matter reflects his wide learning, a feature further evidenced by the broad range of his creative output. In addition to painting, he produced decorative work, sculpture and furniture designs, as well as being engaged as an architect. Successfully combining both intellectual and imaginative powers, he came to be fully appreciated only in the 1980s.


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard
Frederik II Odbudowuje Kronborg


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard
Richard III for slaget ved Bosworth


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard
Scenes from 'Niels Klim's Subterranean Journey' by Baron Ludvig Holberg


Nicolai Abraham Abildgaard
The Spirit of Culmin Appears to his Mother, from the Songs of Ossian

see collection:

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres



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