Ingres was born in Montauban (France) on August 29, 1780, the son of an unsuccessful
sculptor and painter. He entered the studio of the neoclassical painter Jacques Louis David in Paris in 1797 and won
the Prix de Rome in 1801 for his painting The Envoys from Agamemnon. From 1806 to 1820 he
painted in Rome, where he developed his extraordinary gifts for drawing and design. He was greatly influenced by the
work of the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael, and his style has been described as doubly inspired by Raphael and
David. While in Italy, Ingres made many pencil portraits that are distinguished for purity and economy of style. In 1820
he left Rome and went to Florence for four years.
On his return to Paris, Ingres won great acclaim with The Vow of Louis XIII (1820), commissioned for the Cathedral of
Montauban and exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1824. He became the recognized leader of the neoclassical school that
opposed the new romantic movement led by Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault. During this period Ingres
painted The Apotheosis of Homer (1827) for a ceiling in the Louvre in Paris. Angered by the poor reception given his
Martyrdom of Saint Symphonrian (1834, Autun Cathedral), he left Paris to accept the directorship of the French
Academy at Rome in 1834. At the end of his seven-year term as director he returned again to Paris and was welcomed
as one of the most celebrated painters in France. His position both as a painter and as the official academic
spokesman against the romanticists was established, and he was given the rank of commander of the Legion of Honor
in 1845. In the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1855 both he and Delacroix, his chief rival in art, were awarded gold
medals. Ingres died in Paris on January 14, 1867.
Ingres's strengths—superb draftmanship, keen sensitivity for personality, and precise neoclassical linear style—were
perfectly suited to portraiture. Mme. Moitessier and La Comtesse d'Haussonville are outstanding examples, and
M. Berlin is considered one of the finest portraits of the 19th century. Ingres continued to paint vigorously in his old
age, producing in his 82nd year his famous Turkish Women at the Bath, the culmination of his superb
depictions of female nudes. Ingres's influence on art to the present day has been immense; among important later
painters who acknowledged deriving inspiration from his style are Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse,
and Pablo Picasso.