Saturday, September 25, 2010
Pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are the same as those used to produce all colored art media, including oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation.Pastel sticks or crayons consist of pure powdered pigment combined with a binder. The exact composition and characteristics of an individual pastel stick depends on the type of pastel and the type and amount of binder used. It also varies by individual manufacturer.
Dry pastels have historically used binders such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth. Methyl cellulose was introduced as a binder in the twentieth century. Often a chalk or gypsum component is present. They are available in varying degrees of hardness, the softer varieties being wrapped in paper.The pastel medium was first mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci in 1495.
Artists such as Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Rosalba Carriera have been using pastels to create masterpieces as far back as 1703.
During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, used in a mixed technique with gouache.
In the United States, initially pastels only had occasional use in portraiture. However in the late nineteenth century, pastel (like watercolor) became more popular. The Society of Painters in Pastel was founded in 1885. The Pastellists, led by Leon Dabo, organized in New York in 1910.
Pastels have become popular in modern art because of the medium's broad range of bright colors.The 18th-century painters Maurice Quentin de La Tour (see above portrait) and Rosalba Carriera are especially well known for their pastel technique. Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin's 1699-1779 pastel portraiture and still life paintings are much admired.
The 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion.
Mary Cassatt, introduced the Impressionists and pastel to her friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and helped popularize both in the USA.
“ By far the most graphic and, at the same time, most painterly wielding of pastel was Cassatt's in Europe, where she had worked closely in the medium with her mentor Edgar Degas and vigorously captured familial moments such as the one revealed in Mother Playing with Child (22.16.23).
(Metropolitan Museum of Art - Time Line of Art History / Nineteenth Century American Drawings) ”
Whistler produced a quantity of pastels around 1880, including a body of work relating to Venice, and this probably contributed to the growing enthusiasm for the medium. In particular, he demonstrated how few strokes were required to evoke a place or an atmosphere (example Note in Pink and Brown (17.97.5).
Modern notable artists who have worked extensively in pastels include Fernando Botero, Francesco Clemente, Daniel Greene, Wolf Kahn, and R. B. Kitaj.