Jean-Dominique-Auguste Ingres was born in Montauban, and upon his death in 1867, his home town received a collection of 4,500 of the artist's drawings. The museum that now conserves all of them -- the Musée Ingres -- has regular exhibits of small portions of the collection. Right now, in a special exhibit called Ingres Collages: Carte Blanche à Adrien Goetz (open through April 2), art histoiran and novelist Adrien Goetz was given carte blanche to go through the drawings and pull out whatever he thought should be shown. Hervé de Saint Hilaire wrote a review (Les joies secrètes de M. Ingres, January 9) for Le Figaro (my translation):
This is the first in a series that the museum and its passionate curator, Florence Viguier, are organizing on the fashion of the freedom given to a writer, who is invited to select works and to write a book on the subject, which thus serves as an exhibit catalogue. A good idea that transfers authority somewhat from a painter's specialists to writers, who from Diderot to Claudel to Michel Foucault by way of Baudelaire, have often been able to reinvigorate criticism and open the eyes of amateurs and even the greatest connaisseurs. This is a masterful first attempt with Adrien Goetz, author of La Dormeuse de Naples, who selected about a hundred drawings and wrote a magnificent book, Ingres Collages. The work has virtues that are rarely combined in an intellectual and joyous counterpoint: erudition and imagination, vigor, minute detail, and an elegant tone.The museum, which I have yet to visit, is located in the former palace of the bishops of Montauban, incorporated into the town's medieval fortifications, the surviving part of the fortress built for Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, when the English owned this part of France. All of Ingres's major works -- L'Age d'or (the mural in the Château de Dampierre), the Martyrdom of Saint Symphorien (in Autun Cathedral), the Apotheosis of Homer (in the Louvre), or the Vow of Louis XIII (in Montauban Cathedral) -- required hundreds of preparatory sketches and drawings, as the master draftsman worked out every tiny detail. Getting to page through piles of those drawings sounds like happiness to me. Something else to look forward to: the Louvre is planning a major Ingres retrospective, which will open on February 24.