Thursday, August 28, 2008
Happy Birthday, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
In the late '90s the National Gallery in DC had a big show of the great 19th century French painter J.A.D. Ingres, and I drew this cartoon. I like Ingres' work a lot, with that kind of awe that such perfection of technique inspires, but I've never yet pronounced his name correctly. It's kind of AHNggghh, all the way in the back of the throat, using mostly your tonsils.
So I did this cartoon with that usual feeling of, Who's going to get this? My editor just asked if this guy was real, and was his name spelled right. And the Post printed it, a few people read it, and life went on.
Then some time later I got a call from a curator at the Metropolitan Gallery of Art in New York City. The Ingres show was about to move up there, and she said someone had brought in the Pronouncing Ingres cartoon and passed it around and they'd chuckled at it duirng a meeting, and how'd I feel about them putting it on a T-shirt for their Ingres Show Gift Shop? I said sure, though there wasn't much actual money involved, but you know, I figured the cartoon had found its audience and how cool is that? The curator also invited me up to the opening, which I couldn't make as we had a new baby in the house or I was busy or something.
Then a month or so after that I got a call from an editor at the Wall Street Journal asking if they could reproduce the cartoon, and I said sure, and he said thanks and hung up. A day or two later a friend stopped by with a copy of the WSJ and in it was an opinion piece on the cultural pages excoriating the Met for selling these trashy T-shirts with cartoons using the word "anal" from the low-class Washington Post printed on them. Well! I thought about sending a strongly-worded letter to the editor, but I didn't know exactly what to say, so I never got around to it. Like I said, we had a new baby in the house and I was busy.
The other thing was, I never got the drawing back from the Met, though they did send a T-shirt (the above was redrawn from a copy off the shirt). I let them keep it so I could say that my work is in the permanent collection at the Met.
And today Jean Louise Dominique Ingres would've been 228. Happy Birthday!
Update: below is the opening bit of the WSJ column. It later says, "It's no surprise to learn that the Met's T-shirt originated as a Washington Post cartoon." But does it mention my name? No! Ha ha, I'm glad I'm not bitter! And I only kept the article because I've been too busy to throw it away.