In 1932 Pablo Picasso painted a painting entitled woman with a book, named after the canvas Madame Moitessier, by the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, begun in 1844 and completed in 1856. Picasso saw this painting for the first time in 1921 at an exhibition in Paris and was hallucinated by work. In the following decade he made repeated references to Ingres' work, which led him to re-read Madame Moitessier eleven years later. The woman depicted on the French artist's canvas was Inès de Foucauld, wife of the powerful banker Moitessier, while Picasso used her inspiration to portray his young lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter.
The most interesting thing about this show is that the juxtaposition of the two works illustrates the path traced by artistic development from the 19th to the 20th century, a short period for history, but certainly the hundred years that most revolutionized artistic making.
Picasso was born almost a century after Ingres and the artists' styles couldn't be more different. While Ingres, despite being modern, was devoted to the classical style and portrayed a figurative style in his canvases with extreme detail and perfection, Picasso dared and reinvented painting in his own way, creating a totally new pictorial style that gave rise to one of the most avant-garde acclaimed in history, the Cubism.
Even the objects of interest of the artists were diverse, Picasso cared less about what was being painted and more about the innovative way in which he would paint. As for Ingres, the object of his paintings was absolutely imperative. At first, he followed the neoclassical tradition, since he was a faithful disciple of Jean-Louis David, official painter of the French court, and of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Later, following a trend common to 19th-century French painters, Ingres turned his gaze to the “Near East” and portrayed many canvases with themes linked to this culture. The Great Odalisque, from 1814, and The Turkish Bath, from 1863, two of the artist's most famous canvases, came from this interest, which is due to the French military campaigns towards countries like Algeria, Morocco, Egypt and Turkey, which ended up revealing cultural traits of these countries to the French.
Picasso, on the other hand, traced an experimental path with his own work, characterized by a profound anti-academicism, by the gradual geometrization and, later, by the fragmentation of his figures. At the beginning of his career, before painting the famous picture Les Demoiselles D'Avignon in 1907, which inaugurates Cubism, he went through the blue and pink phases, which were less abstract and more figurative, when colors were the protagonists of his canvases and revealed, according to each tonality and palette, the emotional charge of each work .
For the first time in history, the two paintings will be gathered in the same space and the art of the two geniuses will be put in an extensive and mute dialogue in an unprecedented exhibition opened today at the National Gallery, in London, which will last until October 9 .
Picasso Ingres: Face to Face
Location: National Gallery
Address: Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN, United Kingdom
Date: From June 3 to October 9, 2022.
Opening hours: Every day, from 10am to 6pm.