About Pastels

From the
PASTEL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

Pastel is pure pigment, the same pigment used in making all fine art paints. It is the most permanent of all media, when applied to conservation ground and properly framed. Pastel has no liquid binder that may cause other media to darken, fade, yellow, crack or blister with time. Pastels from the 16th cen-tury exist today, as fresh as the day they were painted. No restoration needed, ever!

Pastel does not at all refer to pale colors, as the word is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion term-inology. The name Pastel comes from the French word “pastische” because the pure, powdered pig-ment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colors in the Pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant.

An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the “tooth” of the paper, sandboard or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with Pastel, the work is considered a Pastel painting: leaving much of the ground exposed produces a Pastel sketch, Techniques vary with individual artists. Pastel can be blended or used with visible strokes. The medium is favored by many artists because it allows a spontaneous approach. There is no drying time. and no allowances to be made for a change in color due to drying.

Historically, Pastel can be traced back to the 16th century. Its invention is attributed to the German painter Johann Thiele. A Venetian woman artist, Rasalba Carriera was the first to make consistent use of Pastel. Chardin did portraits with an open stroke, while LaTour preferred the blended finish. Thereafter a galaxy at famous artists. . . Watteau, Copley. Delacroix. Millet. Manet. Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Bonnard. Glackens, Whistler, Hassam, William Merritt Chase … just to list the more familiar names, used Pastel as finished work rather than preliminary sketches.

Edgar Degas was the most prolific user of Pastel, and Its champion. His protege Mary Cassatt Introduced the impressionists and Pastel to her friends In Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the United States. In the spring of 1983, Sotheby Park. Bernet sold at auction two Degas Pastels for more than $3,000,000 each! Both Pastels wore painted about 1880.

Today, Pastel paintings have the stature of ad and watercolor as a major fine art medium. Many of our most renowned living artists have distinguished themselves in Pastel, and enriched the art world with this beautiful medium.

One Response to About Pastels

  1. Evelyn Stevens says:

    Hi Carol –
    I saw your beautiful painting of a daffodil at the UU church today and was quite moved by it. I’m glad to see you are still in Ithaca. Do you do any classes locally? I went to a pastel class in Florida this winter and hope to keep painting.
    I’d love to hear what you and your family are doing these days.
    Evelyn

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