This project up-ends the modernist narrative and re-forms it, by showing the interrelationships between Ingres’s (pre-modern) portrait of the Princesse de Broglie and the work of 24 contemporary artists. I am deliberately challenging modernist titans like Charles Baudelaire and Alfred Barr, to imagine the feminine voice as integral to contemporary art.
When I stood in front of Ingres’s portrait of the Princesse de Broglie I faced a puzzle. I recognized something profound about my life in the portrait. I also felt that all of modern art history stood between me and this painting.
Reaction against Ingres’s work was an important springboard for early modernists like critic and poet, Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire had particular difficulty with ingriste portraits of intellectual and powerful women.
Whether it is Alfred Barr’s torpedo, or Ad Reinhardt’s tree of American art, men have defined art history as a linear narrative. It is an Oedipal drama in which each generation must vanquish its predecessor. It is by definition a male narrative and one which excludes the female voice.
This project creates a compelling counter narrative which demonstrates the relational and feminine nature of art. Art is a generative process, like birth: it is an essential feminine narrative.
My drawing of Pauline de Broglie is the same size as the original painting, 3′ x 4′. Ingres used a grid in the painting. Major compositional elements align to the natural grid.
To give my voice to this painting, I have created 24 works of art which respond to the original portrait. Each work shows a relationship between Ingres and a contemporary artist (or historian): Barr, Bourgeois, Brancusi, Chicago, Christo, Duchamp, Ford, Gauguin, Irwin, Hockney, Judd, Kapoor, Kusama, Martin, Matisse, Munch, O’Keeffe, Ono, Picasso, Reinhardt, Smithson, Stella, Turrell, Von Trier.
Though admired for her beauty, I believe Pauline de Broglie has not been seen. With this series I have created a world for us both. One where our muted voices will be heard.
The Narrative of Modern Art
“The history of art isn’t just a history of artists, of the men and women who painted and sculpted, it’s also the history of the men and women who looked, who interpreted what they saw, and the changing ways in which they did so. If we really want to understand images of the body, I think we’ve really got to put those viewers back into the picture of art.”
—Mary Beard, The Art Newspaper, March 2018
Ad Reinhardt Prunes Art History is a take-off on the Reinhardt’s How to Look at Modern Art in America. Reinhardt espoused his black abstract paintings as the culmination of art history.
The Fanatic of Form
Thoré describes Ingres as the fanatic of form. –From “La Folie Baudelaire” by Roberto Calasso.
The circular elements create a Yayoi Kusama.
The elements which align to the grid create an Agnes Martin.
In the movie, “Painters Painting” (1973), Frank Stella lists among his achievements in art history his ability to resolve the compositional corners of his paintings. Something Ingres had no difficulty doing.
Both Matisse and Picasso were directly inspired by a large retrospective exhibition of Ingres's works held in the Salon de'automne in 1905.
An abstracted detail of the hands and drapery in the portrait are like an O'Keeffe.
Confronting the Psychological
“Behind the technical mastery with which he creates glittering facades and seemingly perfect bodies, his art conceals another deeper and equally fascinating dimension. Today’s modern society attaches greater importance to the psychological processes of the individual than was the case in Ingres’s day. … By confronting the riddles, the questions of life, and seeking a path that was ‘right’ for him, Ingres anticipated the conflict faced by modern man. But this was before Sigmund Freud had drawn attention to the internal conflicts of the human psyche, and Ingres’s paintings frequently met with rejection.”
–Karin H. Grimme
Long before Freud, Ingres captured the internal life of his sitters. Like many people close to artist Edvard Munch, de Broglie would die of consumption. Pallor, flushed checks, bright eyes and fatigue are all symptoms of that disease. Working decades after Ingres, Munch’s art reflected the emotional toll consumption had on his life.
The Importance of the Feminine
“One day Amaury-Duval asked Ingres if he had finished the lead pencil portrait of a lady friend of his. Ingres replied, ‘Ah, my friend, don’t talk to me about that…it’s awful. I no longer know how to draw…I can’t do anything anymore…A portrait of a woman! Nothing in the world is more difficult, it’s not possible…I shall try again tomorrow, because I’ll start from scratch…One feels like weeping.’ Amaury-Duvall added that in that moment tears really did come to Ingres’s eyes.
If a secret doctrine of Ingres existed, this ought to have included as its first article, that a portrait of a woman is the hardest task in the world. Hence the dogged tenacity and the supreme mastery of Ingres in portraying women throughout his lifetime.
We can consider Ingres’s last words to be his remark at the door of his house in quad Voltaire, whence he had accompanied some lady guests after a musical soirée to help them put on their fur coats, as a bitter January wind swept over the group and everyone insisted that their host go back inside as soon as possible: ‘Ingres will live and die a servant of ladies,’ he said. A few days later, he was dead.”
–“La Folie Baudelaire”, by Roberto Calasso
When the 26-year-old Pauline de Broglie sat for her portrait, she had three sons and was pregnant with her fourth. This would not have gone unnoticed in the work of another Parisian, the artist Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois was from a family of tapestry weavers and often created stitched sculptures.
The chemise which runs across the bosom of the woman in the portrait reminded me of Christo's Running Fence.
The princess’s headdress is made from the down of a marabou stork which fed on human remains on ghats of Calcutta. The stork was killed for amusement by the British. The birds learned to recognize and bark at red coats. Animals and colonialism are key themes in work of Walton Ford.
The seamstress's Tahiti
Hidden within the lace in the portrait are two palm trees hand-stitched by a seamstress.
Gauguin would eventually pursue his fantasy of Tahiti: an island filled with palm trees and exotic women.
The first French explorer to reach Tahiti was Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in his ship L’Étoile. The words in this embroidery are taken from his account of Tahiti.
What prompted the seamstress to add the palm trees? Was her perception of this “Eden” closer to the experience of the Tahitian women quoted here from Bougainville's narrative?
The books I’ve read so far:
Allentown Art Museum. A delicate art: Flemish lace, 1700-1940 : an exhibition selected from the collection of the Allentown Art Museum, June 29-October 19, 1986 / Margaret Vincent.
Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays.
Betzer, Sarah E. Ingres and the studio : women, painting, history.
Bryson, Norman. Tradition and desire: from David to Delacroix.
Calasso, Roberto. La Folie Baudelaire.
Dumas, Marlene. The portrait of Josephine-Eleonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Bearn, Princesse de Broglie.
Fairweather, Maria. Madame de Staël. The life of leading French intellectual and grandmother-in-law to the Princesse de Broglie. Great insights and first-hand accounts of French politics from the time of the Revolution to Napoleon's rise and fall.
Gablik, Suzi. Has Modernism Failed?
Gilligan, Carol. The Birth of Pleasure. Gilligan is renowned as a psychologist for her study of women's voices.
Kantor, Sybil Gordon. Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art.
Lloyd, Rosemary. Charles Baudelaire. Poet, early modernist and seminal art critic with great antipathy for Ingres.
Rosenblum, Robert. Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Rosenblum 'pushes aside the old opposition between classicism and romanticism and savors the incongruities within and across the full range of Ingres’s production.'
Shelton, Andrew Carrington. Ingres.
Shelton, Andrew Carrington. Ingres and his critics. Fine-grained analysis of Ingres's career and relationship to the critics of his day.
Have read portions of these books:
Bougainville, Louis-Antoine de. A Voyage Around the World. 1772. The French captain who circumnavigated the globe was an early visitor to the island of Tahiti. His descriptions of Tahiti as an idyllic culture influenced both Rousseau and Gauguin.
Naef, Hans. Die Bildniszeichnungen von J.A.D. Ingres. A five volume collection of biographies for everyone who had their portrait done by Ingres.
Am currently reading:
de Broglie, Pauline-Elèonore. Les Vertus Chrétiennes Expliquées par des Récits Tirés de la Vie des Saints. Written by the subject of the painting, the Princesse de Broglie.
Merriman, John. A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present. Second Edition, 2004.
Moxey, Keith. The Practice of Persuasion: Paradox & Power in Art History.
Munhall, Edgar. Ingres and the Comtesse d’Haussonville. The Frick Museum's in depth research on Ingres’s portrait of the Pauline de Broglie’s sister-in-law, the Comtesse d’Haussonville, who was born Pauline de Broglie.
Preziosi, Donald. The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology.
Siegfried, Susan L. Ingres: Painting reimagined.
Siegfried, Susan L and Rifkin, Adam. Fingering Ingres. Essays reassessing Ingres’s work. 2001.