(French, 1780 –1867) painter
~quotes recorded from “Ingres” by Walter Pach, Harper & Brothers (1939)~
On Being of the New
Let me hear no more of that absurd maxim : “We need the new, we must follow our century, everything changes , everything is changed. “All that is sophistry! Does nature change, do the light and the air change have the passions of the human heart changed since the time of Homer? “One must follow one’s century”…..But if my century is wrong? Because my neighbor’s acts are evil, are my own obliged to be so too? Because virtue, as well as beauty, is misunderstood by you, am I obliged to misunderstand it also, am I obliged to imitate you?”
“There! my dear friend. You heard him yesterday…..and those are the people who judge us, who insult us…Without having learned anything, seen anything, impudent and ignorant…If it suits such gentry, one day, to pick up some mud in the street and throw it in our faces…what is left for us to do, for us who have worked thirty years, and studied and compared, who come before the public with a work (He showed me a portrait he was engaged on) which, if it is not perfect – good lord, I know that – is at least honest, conscientious, produced with the respect one must have for art…well then, we who have no other trade, who do not know how to write, who can not answer them…what are we to do?” Taking his handkerchief from his pocket and rubbing both his cheeks with it, he said,” There, my dear friend, there is all we can do….wipe ourselves off.”
On His “Mlle Riviere” Picture
Just fifty years after painting the Mlle Riviere, the artist could say to Amaury-Duval, “I think that if I have done anything, good is that portrait.”
On Rejoining the Right Path
“Is art to be completely dead? No, not if a different road is taken, the road of nature, by way of the Greeks and Raphael. Our manners are vicious, they are mannerisms. But we must look to the past, go backward in time so as to rejoin the right path.”
On the Duty of the Artist
“To brave everything with courage, never to work save with the idea of pleasing first one’s conscience, then a small number of other persons: There is the duty of artist ; for art is not merely a procession, it is also an apostle ship. All such courageous effort has its recompense, sooner or later. I shall have mine, after so many days of shadow, the light will come.
On Imitation and Originality
“It must not be thought that the exclusive love which I have for this painter (Raphael) causes me to ape him: That would be a difficult thing, or rather, an impossible thing. Look: Who is there, among the great men, who has not imitated? Nothing is made with nothing, and the way good inventions are made is to familiarize yourself with those of others. The men who cultivate letters and the arts are all sons of Homer.
“Drawing is the probity of art”
“I am of the opinion of the good La Fontaine: “No peace with wicked men!”
On Being Exclusive
” I am reproached with being exclusive; I am accused of injustify toward everything that is not the antique or Raphael. And yet I know how to love the little Dutch and Flemish masters because, in their way, they have succeeded, even admirably succeeded in rendering nature as it was before their eyes. No, I am not exclusive or rather I am so only against what is false”
“In art one arrives at an honorable result only through one’s tears. He who does not suffer does not believe.”
To Look For the Sublime
“You should look upon your art with religious feeling. Do not think to produce anything good, even approximately good, without elevation of soul. In order to form yourself for the beautiful, look on nothing save the sublime. Look neither to the right nor to the left and even less to what is beneath. Go forward with your head raised toward the skies instead of inclining it toward the earth, like the pig who keep their eyes on the mud.”
“Art lives on elevated thoughts and noble passions. Let us have character, let us have warmth! One does not die of warmth: one does of cold.”
What One knows
“What one knows, one must know sword in hand. It is only through fighting one gains anything and, in art, fighting is the work which one imposes upon oneself. ”
Nature of Masterpieces
“The nature of masterpieces is not to dazzle. Their nature is to persuade, to convince, to enter into us through our pores”
On seriousness of mind
“Woe to him who deals lightly with his art! Woe to the artist, who does not retain seriousness of mind!”
On Concerning Yourself With Your Work Alone
“Do not concern yourself with other people, concern your self with your work alone; think only of doing it the best way you can. Se how the ant carries its egg: it goes its way without stopping, then, when it has arrived, it looks back to see where the others are. When you shall have reached old age, then you will be able to do the same and compare what you will have produced with the productions of your rivals. Then, but only then will you look at all things without danger, and then will you estimate all things at their true value.
“The more convinced and strong one is, the more kind one must be towards the hesitating and the weak. Kindness is one of the great qualities of genius.
On Great Achievements
“Rarely has anything great been done in the world save through the genius and the firmness of a single man struggling against the prejudices of the multitude or giving prejudices to the multitude”
On Public’s Taste
“The ignorant populaces shows as little tasted in its judgements on the effect of the picture as it does when faced with animate objects. In life, it will go into esctasies over violence or emphasis; in art it will always prefer forced or stilted attitudes and brilliant colors to a noble simplicity. To a tranquil grandeur, as we see them in the pictures of the ancients.”
“Pallid praise of beautiful thing is an offense”
“It is natural to see one’s friends in the best light, except when they fall into what is false. In that case it is the part of true friendship, of charity (for that virtues does not consist solely in giving alms) to assist, to fortify, to lift up the soul and the heart though enlightened and sincere councils as to all that is good, beautiful and profitable. The praise of a simpleton or of an ignorant man, far from encouraging us, should on the contrary give us warning that we are committing some fault.
“To derive fruit from the criticism of our friends, it is very necessary for us to know, though an acquaintance with their character, their taste, and their habits of mind, how to distinguish the point at which their observations are well-founded.
The Lesson of Music
“If I could make musicians of you all, you would thereby profit as painters. Everything in nature is harmony: a little too much, or else too little, disturbs the scale and makes a false note. One must reach the point of singing true with the pencil of with brush quite as much as with the voice; rightness of forms is like rightness of sounds.
On Nature and Form
When studying nature, have eyes only for the ensemble at first. Interrogate it and interrogate nothing but it. The details or self-important little things which have to be put in their place. Breadth of form and breadth again! Form: it is the foundation and condition of all things; smoke itself should be rendered by a line.
Advice About Simplicity
The simpler the lines and forms, the more there is of beauty and of strength. Every time that you divided up the forms, you weaken them. The case is the same as that of the breaking up of anything else.
On Finishing With Line
“The great painters, like Raphael and Michelangelo, have insisted on line in finishing. They have reiterated it with a fine brush and thus they have reanimated the contour; they have imprinted vitality and rage upon their drawing.”
On the Study of Classic Art + Its Importance
“To claim that we can get along without study of one may even call it an art, is nothing but the art of the lazy. It is the doctrine of those who want to produce without having worked, who want to know without having learned; it is an art as lacking in faith as in discipline, wandering blind because of it having no light in darkness, and demanding that mere chance lead it through places where one can advance only by means of courage, experience and reflection.”
On the Enchantment of the Ancients
“The one reason why the ancients were so superior to us was because their manner of seeing depended on good sense as much as on power; it was as sincere as it was beautiful. This principle among men was never lost; they applied it to everything, they made it habitual in every circumstance. And so we admire the ruins of their art or of their industry down to the least details. Down to the common poetry which they doubtless held in light esteem, but whose beautiful contours still enchant us.”
“Idleness resembles rust: it wears you away more than work does
On Regaining That Way of Seeing
“It is that way of seeing which we must regain the thread is broken; it was joined anew for a moment during the Renaissance of the arts in Italy; new centuries of barbarism broke it again; we must strive the bind it together once more.
On the Study of the Masters
We must copy nature always and learn to see it well it is for that purpose that we need to study the antique and the maters, not to imitate them; what we need, as I repeat, is to learn to see. Do you think that I send you to the Louvre to find what is conventionally called “ideal beauty”. Something different from what is in nature? It is foolish idea like that which in bad periods, have brought on the decadence of art. I send you the Louvre because you will learn from the antique to see nature, because it is its nature: And so you must live upon it, feed upon it. The same is true of the paintings the great centuries. Do you think that in ordering you to copy them I want to turn you into copyists? No I want you to get the juice of the plant. Address yourselves to the maters, therefore, speak to them, they will answer you for they are still living. It is they who will instruct you. I myself am no more than their quiz-master. All I have is the small merit of knowing the road that on must follow in order to arrive, and I indicate it to you. Here is our purpose: To approach that (The Antique);and what is that? It is nature, it is intimate acquaintance with beauty and form and the finished, philosophic expression of those things.
On the Merits of a Uncorrupted Painter
An able painter, on who is no danger of being corrupted, can make advantageous used of many things, even those which may be vicious. He will derive benefit from complete mediocrities, and in passing through his hands, their work will turn into. In the coarse attempt to produce art which derive from the time before its renewal he will find original ideas, happy combinations or even more than those, for at times he will discover nothing less that sublime inventions.
Idea On Pursuits of Artists
What can chance reveal to us in the domain created by the imitation of forms? Does any part of drawing remain to be discovered? Shall we, by means of patience or of better eyeglasses, perceive in nature any new outlines, any new color, a new kind of modeling? There is nothing essential to discover in art after Phidias and after Raphael but there is always enough to do, even after then to maintain the cult of the true and to perpetuate the tradition of the beautiful.
To Master Nature + Avoid the Sense of servitude
As much genius as you may have, if you paint directly from the model and not from the nature copied by you, you will always be a slave, and your picture will give the feeling of servitude. Raphael , on the contrary, had mastered nature so thoroughly, he had it so well in memory, that instead of its commanding him, one would say that she herself obeyed him, that she came spontaneously to place herself in his works., one would say that, like a passionate mistress, her beautiful eyes and all her other compelling charms existed only that she might offer them to the happy and privileged Raphael a sort of divinity on Earth, and so the Epitaph composed by Bembo is perfectly exact.
“To succeed well with a portrait, one must first penetrate oneself with the face that one wants to paint, considering it for a long time, attentively, and from all sides; one should indeed devote the first sitting to this part of the work.”
“Oftentimes a portrait is lacking in resemblance because in the beginning the model was badly posed, because he was placed under such bad conditions of light and shade that he would fail to recognize himself in the place where he was painted.”
“There are faces that will be more advantageous to paint from in front, other in three quarter view or as seen from the side, and certain ones in profile, some demand a great deal of light, others have more effect when the rear shadows. It is above all for thin faces that one must get shadow in the cavity of the eyes, because in this way head has a great deal of effect and of character. To this end, let the light fall from above and in small quantity.”
Concern Yourself With Masterpieces
“One must al all times form one’s taste on the masterpieces of art: to concern oneself with other study is to wasted one’s time. One may cast one’s eye on inferior beauties, but not study them, still less imitate them.”
“The great object of our study is to become exclusive, and that is to be learned, I venture to say, by the continual frequentation of the beautiful alone …” Those who have such ideas have never been admitted to the supreme understanding of beauty; and nature, when she created them, denied them one of the senses.”
“And so you see that he is not sufficiently touched by the beautiful and too much by the mediocre-he is not exclusive.
Ancient vs. Modern
The example, far from weakening our imagination and our judgement, as many people think it does, serves, on the contrary, to strengthen and consolidate our ideas of perfection. For at their beginnings, these ideas are weak, formless and confused. They become solid, perfect and secrated by the approbation of the centuries, as we may very safely say, compared to the things that make the glory of the ancients, what are those which cause the pride of the moderns? Pompous designs, flatteries achieved through color, through the balancing of massed, the linking together of groups, and any number or other coquettires of the craft, things which have no word to say to the soul. It was to the soul that the ancients would speak, and it alone was considered by Raphael, Michelangelo and others as worthy to receive the homage of art. By the same token, it is the soul which has generally been neglected by the painters who stand as the great colorists, the great machinists, all those, in a word who have particularly excelled in those picturesque means which so many moderns have been pleased to celebrate as signs of progress; and it is because of this that they have had the audacity to award to themselves the prize which they have refused to antiquity.
“Men of genius are brothers, but they do not look alike”
“The ugly: men go in for it because they do not see enough of what is beautiful”
“It is on our knees that we should study the beautiful”