Jean-Auguste-Dominique’s Portrait of Louis Francois Bertin

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was born to Joseph Ingres in 1780 His father was a small part time artist and sculptor . Eleven years later, Dominique was enrolled into the Royal Academy of Arts in Toulouse. At the academy, he was involved playing in the local orchestra. His father was supportive of his talent and he supported and assisted him in perfecting his art in drawing. Dominique made his first drawing in 1789 and named it named ‘A Study of an Antique Cast’. In 1797, Ingres travelled  to Paris, France where he attended David’s studio and won the Prix de Rome in 1801. Ingres later extended his stay in  to Paris where he got a chance to study with the best painters in the revolutionary period in Europe. He was later admitted to the prestigious Ecole Des Beaux Arts where he learned a style that placed an importance on contouring. He was also privileged to  make a debut in the Salon while still in Paris. Before he travelled to  Rome, his style of drawing was criticized  as being gothic. This was because the art was just evolving and developing and he was fond of incorporating stylistic idiosyncrasies and Carolingian imagery into his artwork.

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His oil to canvas painting The Portrait of Louis Francois Bertin stamped his position as one of the last and greatest  neo-classical painters of our time. It also catapulted him to the world stage as one of the best portrait painters of his generation as evidenced by his portrait of Louis Bertin.  This portrait is considered the most renowned male portrait that Dominique ever painted during his career. It is also considered as his most realistic painting as he was able to capture in fine detail the features of his subject in addition to  the quintessence of a particular social class- the wealthy political class. The portrait was painted in 1832 during Dominique’s period in Paris between 1824 to 1834. This artist’s  images were crafted  into a model on a flat surface of the canvas to form a two-dimensional image hence making many classic paintings.

In the article “Louis Francois Bertin,” the subject in the Portrait of Louis Francois Bertin has been realistically painted with all of his flaws and imperfections captured by the artist in the painting. The painting can be taken as a representation of Bertin’s social class because of the poise and affluence that has been portrayed by Dominique in the painting. The airs that were part of Bertin including his character can also be revealed in the painting as one gets the impression that he was quite but intelligent gentleman who carried himself around with pride. The painting depicts a middle aged man who is seated on an armchair with his palms resting on his knees. His hair is disheveled and his fingers  are splayed across his knees. His casual pose with his hands resting on his knees portrays a wealthy man who is at peace with himself. His calm and demure expression also seems to mirror his character.

The painting has an inflexible background in brown. This is offset only by a hint of white seen in the wrist cuffs and necktie of the subject. The portrait also presents in detail the subject’s graying hair and the gleam from a chain watch and the elegant arm of the chair. Dominique’ brushwork in this portrait was indiscernible since he was able to produce well- defined images hence the realistic nature of this portrait. The lines of his portraits encompassed forms and marked the edges where two flat surfaces overlapped, creating accentuated contour on objects in the outlying background within his paintings. This aspect is also found in his painting of Bertin. His paintings were deeply darkened with the images encompassing deep prefiguring with linear proportion. The viewpoint of his images was therefore angled to the front but to the left. This had the effect of presenting a solemn mood in Dominique’s art.

The political aspect of this work is displayed by the actual painting of Bertin who represented a wealthy political class affiliated to the government of the day. In this case, Bertin was a staunch supporter of Louis Philippe’s government who he had supported and helped to gain power in France. He therefore had a say in the political matters of the country in addition to support from the regime that was in power. The social and cultural context of this portrait is represented by Dominique’s ability to portray Bertin’s status in the society. This is seen in the detail that has been captured in the elegant armchair that he is sitting on, the carefully painted wrist watch and haughty demeanor- attributes of a wealthy social class. Therefore, Dominique stood to gain fame and prominence by painting a rich man with strong links to the ruling elite.

Caspar David Friedrich, Two Men Contemplating the Moon

Caspar David Friedrich is regarded as the most important Landscape painter of the 19th Century German Romantic Movement. His images were crafted  into a model on the flat surface of the canvas to form a two-dimensional image hence making many classic paintings just like his counterpart Dominique. The most apparent facet of the masterpiece of Two Men Contemplating the Moon is the lop-sidedness that is portrayed throughout the painting. The painting seems crammed and seems to leave a  small section of the painting for the area for the sky to peep through the tree. The forefront is occupied by the figures of two men while a twisted tree occupies the right side of the painting. The moon is the focal point of this painting as is common in most of his works. The painting depicts two men who are standing in an upright position while staring at the moon. Their arms are also around each other’s shoulders. The painting is set at a distance portraying a spirit of inquisitiveness on the part of the subjects of the painting. The painting’s subjects are in real sense Friedrich and his student August Heinrich who seem to be wistfully staring at the moon.

Despite the landscape being imaginary, it is rooted on nature studies that Friedrich had made in a variety of regions at diverse periods. Both of the subjects are clothed in ancient German garb, which had been espoused by radical students in 1815 as a demonstration of their  opposition towards  the extreme conformist policies. These policies were forcefully imposed at the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. Friedrich then purposefully painted characters dressed in this banned clothing to express his rebellion against Napoleon’s regime. The resolutely nationalistic Friedrich purposefully ignored a royal decree that was enforced in 1819 which forbade the habit of portraying characters or dressing in the ancient garb. He would go on to depict subjects in his works in the traditional attire up to his death to protest his dissatisfaction to the political class.

The atmosphere of devout reflection with regards to the subjects’ enthrallment with the moon is in line with the fascination with the moon as expressed in contemporary artistic works by various artists. Both of the subjects are observed from behind so that the observer can also be a participant  in their empathy with the beautiful scenery. It is important to note that the Romantics viewed the communion with nature as a materialization of the awe- inspiring aspect of nature and a chance for mere mortals to witness the greatness of God. In terms of the color palette, Friedrich painted this work using dark colors thus creating a melancholic and fairy-tale effect. The brush strokes used by the artist to paint the portrait entails the use of graceful and barely perceptible brushstrokes were employed in order to realize the beautiful impression of this beautiful work of art.

Friedrich drew his inspiration for Two Men Contemplating the Moon   from Kosegarten, the lunar period and medieval German garb. Kosegarten was a German theologist who Friedrich met during his his early days as an artist. Friedrich’s works incorporated a religious tone after his meeting with Kosegarten. This is because the theologist believed that the presence of God could be felt and seen in nature. In addition to this, Kosegarten also believed that God was the Supreme Being who was above nature since he was the the Creator.  Friedrich later went on to adopt this same level of thought as expressed in his works soon after meeting the great theologist.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is the medieval poet  is accredited with awakening a “moon cult” in Germany. With the aid of literary trendsetters such as Goethe, the moon came to denote a  tranquil meditation, secrecy and inquisitiveness. Previously, the moon was seen to conjure feelings of nostalgia and desolation. Consequently, Friedrich came to see the sky and moon as a marvel of God and thus incorporated it into most of  his works as the focal point of his paintings.

Friedrich often utilized his works to communicate his feelings toward nature and the presence of the Divine Being that he acknowledged as existing in nature. He also used his paintings to voice his rebellion and political aggravation against the ruling class or incite patriotism for his homeland during the Napoleonic Wars Most of Friedrich’s works had political undertones as portrayed in this painting. The medieval German garb worn by the subjects in the painting is reflective of their opposition towards Napoleon and his rule. This political aspect is portrayed in most of his works where the attire adorned by the subjects in his paintings reflects his disdain with those in rule.

In conclusion, it can be said that both of the artists who have been discussed in this paper used art as a means to express their inner thought and beliefs. They also used art as a means to show their dissatisfaction towards the political atmosphere in their countries as is the case of Friedrich. Both of these artists were previously unappreciated in their early years as practicing artists but later came to be masters in their respective styles or methods of painting.

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