All about pastel art, techniques and materials. Part 2: A brief history of pastel art

Examples of pastel artist from history. Google.

I know that art history is not always exciting for many but, as pastels have only been used in art for just over 250 years ( though there are records dating back to the 15th century ) there is not a huge wadge of information to wade through. 

However, many famous artists have used pastels in their creations and many of their works remain as vibrant as when they were laid down on paper. I find this reassuring as it confirms that pastel artworks purchased today will, indeed, last more than a lifetime.....

During the 18th century, the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, sometimes in a mixed technique with gouache (a form of watercolour sometimes used as a background to pastel painting) I have used gouache myself once or twice but prefer applying pastel directly to paper....

I am not an art historian but these are the artists that you may recognise and who used pastels in their artworks:

Rosalba Carreira, a Venetian, was one of the first artists to make the pastel medium popular, with her first pastel portraits being completed in 1703....

  "A Muse" 1725 in pastel by Rosalba Carriera    Barbara Campanini 1739 Pastel by Rosalba Carriera

Frenchman Maurice Quentin de La Tour was encouraged to create portraits using pastel in 1727 aged 23. He remained one of the foremost pastel artists of the time.....

   portrait-of-maurice-of-saxony-1747 De La Tour    De La Tour pastel portrait 1751 self portrait

Auguste Renoir was drawn to pastels and first explored them in the mid 1870's and included one in his first exhibition in 1874....

  The Boating Couple, Pastel, 1881, Renoir   the-two-sisters-pierre-auguste-renoir pastel painting

Édouard Manet created many portraits in pastel, some of the earliest being in 1879.....  

  Édouard_Manet_-_Buveuse_de_Bocks pastel painting   Édouard_Manet_-_La_Viennoise_Irma_Brunner pastel painting

Edgar Degas was another proponent of pastels and used them extensively from the last 1870's - his ballerinas are particularly well known...... 

    Degas. ballerinas. pastel painting     edgar-degas-dancers pastel painting 1900

Mary Cassatt was a talented American pastelist and started working in the medium after Degas introduced her to the newly formed "Impressionist" group in 1878 in Paris when she was 34.... 

   Mary Cassat 1894 pastel painting   Cassatt_Mary_Margot_in_Blue,_1902

Henri de Toulouse-Latrec was also drawn to Degas's pastel artworks and, although he primarily worked in oils, he created a number of pastel portraits including this one ( in 1887 ) of Vincent Van Gogh..... 

 Toulouse-Lautrec_Henri_ pastel portrait of Vincent_van_Gogh_   henri-de-toulouse-lautrec-the-dancer-in-her-dressing-room-pastel painting

I hope this short visual history is of interest and has given you an insight into the world of pastel art in times gone by. As I say - pastel paintings have lasted this long and will continue to impress for future generations to come. Artworks that will last a lifetime and more.....I am proud that my artworks will be viewed and enjoyed for a long, long time!

Part 3 of this series will be posted here soon and will cover the practicalities of using pastels and pastel pencils. I hope to catch you here again soon! 

 

 

 

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