Letter to Jean-Germain-Désiré Amengaud
Letter from Ingres to Jean-Germain-Désiré Amengaud, 19 February 1850
Purchased on the Fellows Fund, 1979
Charles Blanc's monumental Histoire des peintres, a comprehensive and illustrated review of the history of European painting from the Renaissance onward, was first published in 1861, though chapters on individual artists were printed as installments and were available by subscription as early as August 1849. In this indignant letter to the editor of the series, Jean-Germain-Désiré Armengaud (1797–1869), Ingres explains why he had cancelled his subscription. The artist refused to endorse a publication that propagated "trends [in painting] that are entirely opposed to mine and that I believe to be dangerous.".
Paris, 19 February 1850
In discontinuing my subscription to the History of Painters, I have only made use of a right included in your prospectus. But your letter appears to ask the reason for my decision, I will tell you, sir; it is that the beginning of your work suggests too many tendencies that are quite opposite to mine and that I believe dangerous. Your goal, you say, is the propagation of painting and of the love of art. That, sir, is an important mission, because it is also the propagation of sound doctrines and therefore of those of the masterpieces of the Classical and noble style on which depend the existence of art and its beautiful direction. This language, sir, this profession of faith so often and so publicly made by me should not surprise you and everyone knows that any compromise in my conception of my duty, as a matter of principle, is impossible. If, however, Sir, you think you lose too much by losing my name and that I can spare you, on this occasion, what you kindly describe as unpleasant for you in the highest degree, I will renew my subscription, thinking all the time, that you could have forgotten me and let me be in my corner, regretful not to have been able to gain acceptance, in the arts, for what I believe to be truth and beauty. I am, Sir, yours very truly J. Ingres to Mr. Armengaux [sic] editor of the work "History of Painters"