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"The École des Beaux-Arts, in full École Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux-arts, school of fine arts founded (as the Académie Royale d'Architecture) in Paris in 1671 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, minister of Louis XIV; it merged with the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (founded in 1648) in 1793. The school offered instruction in drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and engraving to students selected by competitive examination; since 1968, architecture is no longer taught there." (http://www.britannica.com/)
In the 19th century the French Academy (École des Beaux-Arts) that David had taken over still flourished. Artists who worked in David's style continued to dominate the French art world. The style that they worked in was referred to as "Academic" however they didn't just paint Neoclassical scenes but also painted scenes depicting Arabia, Turkey and India and this subject matter was called "Orientalism."
Oil on canvas, approx. 12' 8" x 16' 103/4". Louvre, Paris.
French Academic Painting
|Form: This painting is rendered in a very slick and detailed fashion. No brushstrokes are visible in Ingre's paintings. Although photography hadn't been invented yet, this painting recalls the photo realistic surfaces and textures of David and Jan Van Eyck's paintings. The overall design of this image reflects a Neoclassical sense of composition and a Renaissance sense of perspective.|
The picture plane is arranged in a sculptural frieze like band that takes its cue from antique sculptural friezes such as those found on the Ara Pacis and the Parthenon. Like its classical counterparts, the image is constructed so that most of the figures are placed in the foreground and even though there is the creation of deep space, the background is not as important as the figures.
It is also classic in that the composition is arranged symmetrically with the most important figure, proclaiming the oath, in the center. The use of perspective also focusses on this figure.
Iconography: The vessel depicts the apotheosis of Homer which is a kind of crowning scene. Homer is about to be crowned by a winged victory figure called a nike. To the right of the nike figure is a figure who hands Homer his harp.
This painting contains some similar types of elements as Raphael's work. The figures in the foreground represent important thinkers and paintings from the last three centuries.
In the lower right hand corner is Isaac Newton. Above him and to the left is Rene Descartes. In the lower left hand corner is an image of Poussin, the hero of the French school of painting who gestures up towards Homer on his throne. Behind the figures is an ionic temple that serves as both a visual and conceptual frame with which to view the work.
Context: Ingres was David's student and came to Paris because he was awarded a scholarship to study there. Throughout his life he became one of the giants of the French academic style and he was instrumental in maintaining the Academy's integrity despite the competition it had with a style of art called Romanticism.
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Large Odalisque. 1814
oil on canvas, 35"x64" Louvre, Paris
|Form: This painting falls into all the major characteristics of the Academic style. It is painted almost photographically, it is symmetrical and textures and the human forms are rendered extremely naturalistically and exactly by using glazes. It is also very Ingres- like in his distortions of the figures. Here is a perfect example of his thin sloping shoulders and slightly rubbery elongated torsos which was the ideal of female beauty at the time. |
Iconography: This painting is a European fantasy of what a Turkish harem girl might look like but if she is a Turkish woman why is her skin so pale?
In many ways this painting refers almost exactly to the schema that Titian established in his Venus of Urbino and Boucher established in his Brown Odalisk. These artists chose to juxtapose the eroticized female form with commodities or luxury items. By playing the textures and body of the female against expensive fabrics, feathers, and jewels, the artist is also making the human female form another commodity which can be bought and sold. In this way, the wealth of the patron is also eroticized.
A certain amount of moralizing is happening too. The artist wants to paint naked pictures of beautiful French women to appease the "male gaze." But cannot unless it is a classical goddess. Here Ingres finds a new strategy to display the nude female form under the disguise of an ethnographic image very similar to a "National Geographic" magazine.
Since these women are foreign, exotic, and somewhat barbaric it's OK to look at them as long as it's for an anthropological type of study. Even the photographic aspect of this image supports that this is a documentary type of image. And, if they are barbaric, we as good Christian soldiers need to go to these places and "civilize" them.
In this instance, the luxury items that Ingres plays her body against happen to be the silks and ostrich feathers of the so called orient are by products of our efforts to civilize these people. In this way the style of Orientalism is a kind of advertisement that justifies the colonization of the east.
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