Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was born on August 29, 1780 in Montauban, France. His father was a painter, sculptor and violinist, and taught the young Ingres in all three disciplines. The boy's talent for music seemed promising at first. In 1791 he entered the Royal Academy of Arts in Toulouse where he studied art, sculpture and landscape painting.
In 1796 Ingres went to Paris for 4 years to study under Jacques-Louis David. He won the Grand Prix in 1801 and parted company from David over a difference of opinion on style. Ingres's style was more flat and linear, and focused on contour.
In 1802 he exhibited Girl after bathing and in 1804 a Portrait of the First Consul. His works produced a disturbing impression on the public. His talent, his power of literal rendering and the purity of his line were generally acknowledged; but he was reproached with a desire to be singular and extraordinary.
In 1815 Ingres had made many projects for treating a subject from the life of the celebrated Duke of Alva, a commission from the family, but an aversion for this family grew upon him, and finally he abandoned the task.
During all these years Ingres's reputation in France did not increase. The interest his work arised soon died away; not only was the public indifferent, but amongst other artists Ingres found little recognition. The strict classicists looked upon him as an apostate. Eugène Delacroix and other leaders of the romantic movement for which Ingres always expressed the deepest abomination, seem to have been the only ones sensible of his merits.
The combination with poverty was hard to bear. In 1813 a marriage had been arranged for him. Madame Ingres acquired a faith in her husband which enabled her to combat their difficulties, which increased by their removal to Florence. In this town his pencil was hardly in request.
Before his departure he had, however, been commissioned to paint 'the Entry of Charles V into Paris', and his client obtained an order for Ingres from the Administration of Fine Arts. This work, exhibited at the Salon of 1824, met with universal endorsement. On his return Ingres was received with enthusiastic homage, and found himself celebrated throughout France. In 1825 he was elected to the Institute.
He was given a second commission from the government. From 1826 to 1834 his studio was thronged and he was a recognized chef d'école. Whilst he taught with authority and wisdom, he steadily worked.
When in 1834 he produced 'the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien', he found his work received with the same indifference, doubt, and even hostility, as had met his earlier ventures. Ingres decided to no longer work for the public, and gladly utilized the opportunity to return to Rome, as director of the École de France. There he executed paintings for Monsieur Marcotte, his faithful admirer for whom Ingres had painted the Sistine Chapel.
Ingres returned to Paris in 1841, where he found himself received with all the esteem that he felt to be his due. Ingres shortly afterwards began the decorations of the great hall in the Chateau de Dampierre, which, unfortunately were begun with an ardour which gradually slackened. In 1849 he was further discouraged by the loss of his faithful wife. He abandoned all hope of the completion, and the contract was finally cancelled.
After 1858 the principal works produced by Ingres were of a religious character. On 17 January 1867 Ingres died at the age of 88. He was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.