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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

The Turkish Bath

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Turkish Bath - Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

108cm x 108cm
oil on canvas and wood
Musée du Louvre, Paris
© RMN / Gérard Blot

View this work in the exhibition Bathing

The work

As a young man, Picasso had almost dismissed Ingres as a vieux pompier, an aged exponent of the group of traditionalist academic painters known as Les Pompiers. Then he saw a retrospective of his work at the 1915 Salon d'Automne when he discovered the splendid portrayals of women, especially in The Turkish Bath. He was to remain an admirer of Ingres for the rest of his life. The light, the placing of the shadows, the rhythm of the areas of color, the abandoning of perspective in favor of space defined by the bodies... all this seemed to him astonishingly modern. Indeed, the art of Ingres is both modern and classical. He structures space in an unusual way, distorts the human form, cheats and constantly deceives the eye. And his drawing skill is one of the finest in the history of painting - pure, rounded and with an extraordinary sensuality that seems almost to clothe the nakedness of the women he paints - here odalisques in the bath.

The artist

Born in Montauban in 1780, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres was the son of a painter, entered the art academy in Toulouse at the age of eleven and the studio of David in Paris at fifteen. He won the Prix de Rome in 1801 and left for Italy where he was influenced by the art of the Renaissance, particularly the painting of Raphael. He remained in Rome from 1806 to 1820, then spent four years in Florence. He sent his paintings to Paris but they were not well received by the public. It was not until a commission from the French government (Vow of Louis XIII, 1820) met with huge success at the Salon of 1824 that Ingres was finally acclaimed by the critics. Unfortunately, they recognized in him a master of Neoclassicism and compared him to young Romantic painters like Géricault and Delacroix. This bad reputation was hard to shake off and many still see Ingres only as an official artist, director of the Villa Medici in Rome from 1835 to 1842, a Commander of the Légion d'Honneur in 1845, who died in 1867 at the height of his fame, and do not look at his painting, which they wrongly judge as academic.