Special Topics in Art and Culture: An Old Master in a Modern Art World
210 Tappan Hall
Tu 1:00-4:00pm
3 Credit Seminar

The status of Old Masters is secured by myths that seek to represent the essence of their achievement. Ingres is no exception, but is unusual because the competing mythologies seeking to explain his work manifest a deep-seated anxiety about his significance. This seminar explores the puzzlement he has posed, both among his contemporaries and later historians. Already before his death he was instated as a key figure of nineteenth-century art, but one whose status defied critical resolution. Ever since then there has been a tendency to see his work as simultaneously fascinating and indigestible. Art movements collide in their different interpretations of him (classicism, l'art pour l'art, realism), and he has been enlisted both as a radical proto-modernist and a conservative bulwark of tradition. The tensions between those critical positions helps us to appreciate what makes his art so compelling and also illuminates contradictions in modern assessments of what constitutes a great artist, between the values of a radical individualism and a bourgeois traditionalism. We shall be looking closely at responses to Ingres and also at the works themselves so as to understand why it kept perpetuating such conflicting interpretations. Recommended texts are Andrew Shelton, Ingres (2008); and Susan Siegfried, Ingres: Painting Re-imagined (2009). Estimated cost of materials: $100 or more, but less than $150. D. 4