About the Princesse

Retelling the story of art

Hammerfriar Gallery logo
Gallery and Custom Framing
132 Mill Street, Healdsburg, California
707 473-9600

Who and what is the Princesse?

The Princesse is the name of a series of work by Kristen Throop which uses a portrait by the 19th century painter J.A.D. Ingres as its center point. The subject of that portrait is Pauline, the Princesse de Broglie.
The Princesse, Pauline de Broglie, was a writer, introvert and French aristocrat who posed for her portrait between 1851 and 1853. This was the last commissioned portrait painted by Ingres.

A simple question

In January of 2018, I was looking for something, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. During a period of personal turmoil, I was searching for meaning and a way forward. As I often do, I looked for those answers in art.
I saw a great deal of wonderful art on my trip, but it was not until my last day that I found what I was looking for.
It was Ingres’s portrait of Pauline, the Princesse de Broglie. It was both a reflection of something I needed to see and a series of questions which I have spent four years untangling.
As I stood in front of the portrait, I felt two conflicting emotions: that I loved the painting and that I felt I should not love the painting.

Bad Taste is real taste … and good taste is the residue of someone else's privilege.

— Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy
I had recently re-read “Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy” by Dave Hickey, and so held on to my love of painting. But why did I have such a strong sense that as a contemporary artist, this painting was beyond the pale, strictly off limits?


Three by four foot pencil drawing by Kristen Throop of Ingres's late portrait
I returned from my trip and began drawing the portrait of Pauline de Broglie. The smaller sketches weren’t working, so I decided to draw it at its original size, three feet by four feet. This took two and a half months. The slow process revealed just how technically masterful the piece was and it also gave me a lot of time to think. This series is based on those thoughts, the many connections between this classical piece of artwork and the many modern and contemporary artists that followed Ingres.

Making connections

The story of modernism that I had learned as an artist worked as a linear arc. In that story, classical art like this portrait by Ingres, was everything art should not be.
Yet as I worked on the pencil study of the portrait, I saw relationships everywhere between this painting and the work of modern and contemporary artists.
The Princesse is a series of “conversations” between the portrait by Ingres and the work of:
Alfred Barr, Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Christo and Jean Claude, Marcel Duchamp, Walton Ford, Paul Gauguin, David Hockney, Donald Judd, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Agnes Martin, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Smithson, Frank Stella, James Turrell, Lars Von Trier.
As the creator of the “translations” my own sensibility is intermixed with the art.
Watercolor by Kristen Throop showing the emotion not revealed in Ingres's portrait of a woman with tuberculosis
Watercolor and text giving context to Munch's relationship to Ingres's portrait
Watercolor of Marabou stork by Kristen Throop
Walton Ford's connection to Ingres's portrait
Ingres's portrait reduced to only circles
Yayoi Kusama's connection to Ingres's portrait
Louise Bourgeois's connection to Ingres's portrait

Retelling the story of art

In finding in one rancid stroke all the dry and rancid works that make up practically the entire oeuvre of Monsieur Ingres, I feel rising up in me that great awesome hatred that prompts disdain of every great fortune attained by a mediocre man, and I find myself delighted by the opportunity to express my opinion — my entire opinion — on this painter and his detestable school. … Not so much the fetid chill of the mausoleum that the painter's works evoked as the pestilential atmosphere of the hospital ward. Before such antiquated and not majestic painting, my nostrils were invaded by whiffs of warm, sour and nauseating air like that coming from cells of Sainte-Perrine or the Hospital des Petits-Menages. I am sorry to say this before delicate readers, but it was like the taste of a sick man's handkerchief .”

— Nadar's review of the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Le Figaro
At the end of four years of working on The Princesse, I have come to see the story of art not as a linear and narrow arms race which privileges the few, but as a rich conversation open to many.
I will be talking about this on Saturday, August 8 at 1 pm at Hammerfriar Gallery. I’ll be discussing the influence of proto-modernist Charles Baudelaire, Museum of Modern Art director Alfred Barr and artist Ad Reinhardt.
The history of art according to modernism

The sketchbooks

On Saturday, August 20 at 1 pm at the Hammerfriar Gallery, I will be talking about the four year process of making this body of work. I’ll be showing the four sketch books that I used to think through the process. The video below will walk you through some of those images.