An hour by rail from Toulouse lies the ancient city of Montauban, as far as I know unnoticed by English tourists since Arthur Young's time. This superbly placed chef-lieu of the Tarn and Garonne is alike an artistic shrine and a palladium of religious liberty. Here was born that strongly individualized and much contested genius, Dominique Ingres, and here Protestantism withstood the League, De Luyne's besieging army and the dragonnades of Louis XIV.

The city of Ingres may be thought of by itself; there is plenty of food for reflection here without recalling the prude whose virtue caused more mischief than the vices of all the Montespans and Dubarrys put together. Let us forget the Maintenon terror at Montauban, the breaking up of families, the sending to the galleys of good men and women, the torturings, the roastings alive, and turn to the delightful and soothing souvenirs of genius! Every French town that has given birth to shining talent is straightway turned into a Walhalla. This ancient town, so strikingly placed, breathes of Ingres, attracts the traveller by the magic of the painter's name, has become an art pilgrimage. The noble monument erected by the townsfolk to their great citizen and the picture-gallery he bequeathed his native city well repay a much longer journey than that from Toulouse. We see here to what high levels public spirit and local munificence can rise in France. We see also how close, after all, are the ties that knit Frenchman and Frenchman, how the glory of one is made the pride of all. The bronze statue of the painter, with the vast and costly bas-relief imitating his "Apotheosis of Homer" in the Louvre, stand in the public walk, the beauty of which aroused even Arthur Young's enthusiasm. "The promenade," he wrote in June 1787, "is finely situated. Built on the highest part of the rampart, and commanding that noble vale, or rather plain, one of the richest in Europe, which extends on one side to the sea and in front to the Pyrenees, whose towering masses heaped one upon another in a stupendous manner, and covered with snow, offer a variety of lights and shades from indented forms and the immensity of their projections. This prospect, which contains a semicircle of a hundred miles in diameter, has an oceanic vastness in which the eye loses itself; an almost boundless scene of cultivation; an animated but confused mass of infinitely varied parts, melting gradually into the distant obscure, from which emerges the amazing frame of the Pyrenees, rearing their silvered heads above the clouds."

The Ingres Museum contains, I should say, more works from the hand of a single master than were ever before collected under the same roof. Upwards of a thousand sketches, many of great power and beauty, are here, besides several portraits and one masterpiece, the Christ in the Temple, brilliant as a canvas of Holman Hunt, although the work of an octogenarian. The painter's easel, palette, and brushes, his violin, the golden laurel-wreath presented to him by his native town, and other relics are reverently gazed at on Sundays by artisans, soldiers and peasant-folk. The local museum in France is something more than a little centre of culture, a place in which to breathe beauty and delight. It is a school of the moral sense, of the nobler passions, and also a temple of fame. Therein the young are taught to revere excellence, and here the ambitious are stimulated by worthy achievement.

Ingres-ville recalls an existence stormy as the history of Montauban itself. This stronghold of reform throughout her vicissitudes did not show a bolder, more determined front to the foe than did her great citizen his own enemies and detractors. Dominique Ingres and his life-story favour those physicists who discern in native soil and surroundings the formative influences of aptitudes and character. The man and his birthplace matched each other. Indomitableness characterized both, and to understand both we must know something of their respective histories. To Montauban Henri Martin's great history does ample justice, to her illustrious son contemporary writers have recently paid worthy tributes.

[Footnote: See Les Grands Artistes - Ingres, par J. Mommeja, Paris, Laurens; Le Roman d'amour de M. Ingres, par H. Lapauze, Paris, Lafitte, 1911.]

"When a writer is praised above his merits in his own times," wrote Savage Landor, "he is certain of being estimated below them in the times succeeding." In the case of Ingres, opposition and contumely were followed by perhaps excessive laudation whilst he lived, after his death ensuing a long period of reaction. Time has now set the seal upon his fame. The great Montalbanais has been finally received into the national Walhalla.

The father of the so-called French Raphael, writes his biographer, was not even a Giovanni Santi. Joseph Ingres, in the words of M. Mommeja, was un petit ornemaniste, a fabricator of knick-knacks, turning out models in clay, busts in plaster, miniatures and other trifles for sale at country fairs. Who can say, this humble craftsman may yet have had much to do with his son's aspirations?

An inferior artist can appraise his masters. From the humble artificer and purveyor of bagatelles the youth not only imbibed a passion for art and technical knowledge: he inherited the next best thing to a calling, in other words, a love of music. From the palette throughout his long life Ingres would turn with never-abated enthusiasm to his adored violin.

The learned monograph above-named gives a succinct and judicial account of the painter's career. The second writer mentioned tells the story of his inner life; one, indeed, of perpetual and universal interest.

For to this sturdy young bourgeois early came a crisis. He found himself suddenly at the parting of the ways, on the one hand beckoning Conscience, on the other ambition in the flattering shape of Destiny. To which voice would he hearken? Would love and plighted troth overrule that insistent siren song, Vocation? Would he yield, as have done thousands of well-intentioned men and women before him, to self-interest and worldly wisdom? The problem to be solved by this brilliantly endowed artist just twenty-six - how many a historic parallel does it recall! What three words can convey so much pathos, heroism and generosity as "il gran riffiuto?" - the great renunciation. Does the French language contain a more touching record than that of the great Navarre's farewell to his Huguenot brethren? What bitter tears shed Jeanne d'Albret's son ere he could bring himself to sacrifice conscience on the altar of expediency and a great career!

At the age of twenty we find Dominique Ingres studying in Paris under David, then in his apogee.

The son of an obscure provincial, however promising, would hardly be overwhelmed with hospitalities; all the more welcome came the friendliness of an honourable magistrate and his wife, by name Forestier. During five years the young man had lived on terms of closest intimacy with these good folks, under his eyes growing up their only daughter.

Alas! poor Julie. Mighty, says Goethe, is the god of propinquity. On Dominique's part attachment seems to have come insensibly, as a matter of course and despite the precariousness of his position. M. Forestier encouraged the young man's advances. To Julie love for the brilliant winner of the Prix de Rome became an absorption, her very life. Not particularly endowed by Nature - we have her portrait in M. Mommeja's volume - she described her own physiognomy as "not at all remarkable, but expressive of candour and goodness of heart." For Julie, as we shall see, turned her love-story into a little novel, only unearthed the other day by M. Lapauze.

The Prix de Rome meant, of course, a call to Rome, the worthy magistrate exacting from his prospective son-in-law a promise that in twelve months' time he would return. During that interval correspondence went on apace not only between the affianced lovers, but between M. Forestier and Ingres, the former taking affectionate and not uncritical interest in the other's projects. For Ingres was before all things a projector, anticipating by decades the achievements of his later years. The glow of enthusiasm, the fever of creativeness were at its height. Italy possessed Ingres' entire being when the crisis came.

After delays, excuses, pleadings, Julie's father lost patience. He would brook no further tergiversations. Ingres must choose between Italy and Paris; in other words, so the artist interpreted it, between art and marriage, a proud destiny or self-extinction.

Never had a young artist more completely fallen under the spell of Italy. The recall seemed a death-blow. "On my knees," he wrote to Julie, whom he really loved, "I implore you not to ask this. It is impossible for me to quit immediately a land so full of marvel."

But the practical M. Forestier would not give way. Ingres' persistence looked like folly, even madness in his eyes. The young man was with difficulty living from hand to mouth, portraits and small orders barely keeping the wolf from the door. The return home and marriage would ensure his future materially and socially, and up to a certain point render him independent of malevolent criticism. For already Ingres was fiercely attacked by Parisian authorities on art: he had become important enough to be a target. After cruellest heart-searching and prolonged self-reproach, il gran riffiuto was made, youthful passion, worldly advantages - and plighted faith - were cast to the winds. Henceforth he would live for his palette only, defying poverty, detraction and fiercely antagonistic opinion; if failing in allegiance to others, at least remaining staunch to his first, best, highest self, his genius.

Julie, the third imperishable Julie of French romance, never married. Let us hope that the writing of her artless little autobiography called a novel brought consolation. Did she ever forgive the recalcitrant? Her story, Emma, ou la fiancee, ends with the aphorism: "Without the scrupulous fulfilment of the given word, there can be neither happiness nor inner peace."

Did that backsliding in early life disturb the great painter's stormy but dazzling career? Who can say? We learn that Ingres was twice, and, according to accredited reports, happily, married. His first wife, a humbly-born maiden from his native province, died in 1849, leaving the septuagenarian so desolate, helpless and stricken that kindly interveners set to work and re-married him. The second Mme. Ingres, although thirty years his junior, gave him, his biographer tells us, "that domestic peace and happiness of which for a brief space he had been deprived." Heaped with honours, named by Napoleon III. Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour, Senator, Member of the Institut, Ingres died in 1869. Within a year of ninety, he was Dominique Ingres to the last, undertaking new works with the enthusiasm and vitality of Titian. A few days before his death he gave a musical party, favourite works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven being performed by skilled amateurs. His funeral was a veritable apotheosis, disciples, admirers and detractors swelling the enormous cortege.

Those who, like myself, have times without number contemplated the master's opus magnum in the Louvre, and have studied his art as represented in the provincial museums, will quit the Musee Ingres with mixed feelings. It must occur to many that, perhaps, after all, il gran riffiuto of opposite kind might have better served art and the artist's fame. Had he returned to France - and to Julie - at the stipulated period, the following eighteen years being spent not on Italian but on native soil, how different the result! Then of his work he could have said, as did Chantecler of his song -

                     "Mon chant 
     Qui n'est pas de ces chants qu'on chante en cherchant 
     Mais qu'on recoit du sol natal comme une seve."

Would not most of us willingly give Ingres' greatest classical and historic canvases for one or two portraits, say that of Bertin, or, better still, for a group like that of the Stamiti family? What a portrait gallery he would have bequeathed, how would he have made the men and women of his time live again before us!

[Footnote: Both are reproduced, with many other works, in M. Mommeja's volume.]

Ingres, the artist, ever felt sure of himself. Did the lover look back, regretting the broken word, the wrong done to another? We do not know. His life was throughout upright, austere, free from blot; born and bred a Catholic, he had doubtless Huguenot blood in his veins, many of his most striking characteristics pointed to this inference.

A word more concerning Montauban itself. The stronghold of reform, that defied all Richelieu's attempts to take it, is to this day essentially a Protestant town. Half of its inhabitants have remained faithful to the faith of their ancestors. Tourists will note the abundance of cypress trees marking Huguenot graves, the capital of Tarn and Garonne is a veritable Calvinistic Campo Santo. After the Revocation, many families fled hence to England, their descendants to this day loving and reverencing the country which gave them a home.

Montauban, as we should expect, has raised a splendid monument to its one great citizen.

Since writing these lines, an Ingres exhibition has been opened in the Georges Petit Gallery, Paris. Apropos of this event, the Revue des Deux Mondes (May 15, 1911) contains a striking paper by the art-critic, M. de Sizeraine. Some of the conclusions here arrived at are startling. Certain authorities on art are said to regard the great Montalbanais as a victim of daltonism - in other words, colour-blind!

In company of the mere amateur, this authority turns with relief from the master's historical and allegorical pieces to his wonderfully speaking portraits. Here, he says, all is simple, nothing is commonplace, nothing is unexpected, and yet nothing resembles what we have seen elsewhere; we find no embellishment, no stultification. He adds: "In art, as in literature, works which survive are perhaps those in which the artist or writer has put the most of himself, not those in which he has had most faith. The "Voeu de Louis XIII," the "Thetis" of Ingres, we may compare to Voltaire's Henriade and to the Franciade of Ronsard, all belong to the category of the opus magnum that has failed, and of which its creator is proud." With the following charming simile the essay closes -

"Posterity is a great lady, she passes, reviews the opus magnum, la grande machine disdainfully, satirically; all seems lost, the artist condemned. But by chance she catches sight of a neglected picture turned to the wall in a corner or passage, some happy inspiration that has cost its author little pains, but in which he has not striven beyond his powers, and in which he has put the best of himself. The grande damecatches it up, holds it to the light. 'Ha! here is something pretty!' she cries. And the artist's fame is assured."

Has not Victor Hugo focused the same truth in a line -

     "Ici-bas, le joli c'est le necessaire!"

And our own Keats also -

                     "For 'tis the eternal law, 
     That first in beauty should be first in might."