La Maison du Pastel has launched new line of “Petits Roché”, a reduced-selection of half-stick pastels. They are available to date in 3-piece and 12-piece sets, and a further 36-piece set should be available in the spring of 2012. The 3-piece sets come as “Discovery”, “Portrait” or “Landscape” sets, and if you are like me and would like to try these famous pastels this might be a good deal. If you would like to order go to their website and check under Contact how and where you can order. La Maison du Pastel team, refreshed by Margaret, are also in the process of developing an online shop. To find out more about these pastels you can read one of the older posts about Henry Roche pastels.
Odilon Redon (1840-1916) was a French painter, draughtsman, and printmaker, one of the outstanding figures of Symbolism. Until he was in his fifties he worked almost exclusively in black and white—in charcoal drawings and lithographs. In these he developed a highly distinctive repertoire of weird subjects—strange creatures, insects, and plants with human heads and so on, influenced by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. He remained virtually unknown to the public until the publication of J. K. Huysmans’s celebrated novel A rebours in 1884; the book’s hero, a disenchanted aristocrat who lives in a private world of perverse delights, collects Redon’s drawings, and with his mention in this classic expression of decadence, Redon too became a figurehead of the movement. During the 1890s he turned to painting and revealed remarkable powers as a colorist that had previously lain dormant. Much of his early life had been unhappy, but after undergoing a religious crisis in the early 1890s and a serious illness in 1894–5, he was transformed into a much more buoyant and cheerful personality, expressing himself in radiant colors in visionary subjects, flower paintings, and mythological scenes (the chariot of Apollo was one of his favorite themes). He showed equal facility in oils and pastel and after 1900 he carried out a number of large decorative schemes. His flower pieces, in particular, were much admired by Matisse, and the Surrealists regarded him as one of their precursors. By the end of his life he was a distinguished figure, although still a very private person.
Source: Oxford Dictionary of Art
This is the pastel portrait of Paul Helleu by John Singer Sargent from 1880, and it is his only pastel painting I could find on the net. If you know for some more please let us know in the comments.
Fogg Museum of Art (USA)
Width: 44.8 cm (17.64″) Height: 49.5 cm (19.49″).
To see it in the better resolution click on the image.
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Some of Edouard’s Manet well known oil paintings are ”Déjeuner sur l’herbe”, at that time considered scandalous, and Olympia (painted 1863), the most shocking work in 1865 presented in Salon. Less known is the fact Manet has used pastel medium in last 3 years of his life when he was forced by paralysis to take to a wheel chair.
Pastel Portrait of Irma Brunner is one of a numerous painted by Manet at that time. He found the pastel medium easier for him to manage than oil, and as result his large oil paintings at this time were few.
Manet not only used pastel medium as it was more convenient, but also because it permitted him to experiment with his theories in the rendering of light and shade to obtain a general effect of luminosity. He did not, as did Degas, depend so much on the individual strokes of the pastels, but sought rather for broader masses of juxtaposed color to produce his effect. The great majority of Manet’s pastels portray beautiful women, women from all stations of society. These delightful portraits of women deservedly rank with the finest work that Manet produced and reveal the immense variety of the artist.
Although Manet was a friend with several French Impressionists and shared some of their ideas and techniques, he has formally never become their member nor did he exhibit with them.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Whistler was an American-born, British-based artist. At age 21 he sailed to Europe after committing himself to become an artist. Among the others he met Edgar Degas in Paris whose friendship was very important to him as an artist. He emerged as an advocate of Aestheticism, movement that promoted the unity of art and design with credo “art for art’s sake”. Striving to make harmony between shape, color, light and line and finding a parallel between painting and music, Whistler titled many of his paintings “Symphony”, “Harmony”, and “Nocturne”. Emphasizing the primacy of tonal harmony he became one of the founder of Tonalism. Famous signature for his paintings was a stylized butterfly. The symbol was appropriate, for it combined both aspects of his personality—his art was characterized by a subtle delicacy, while his public persona was combative.
Whistler preferred to work outdoors but the unusually cold winter of 1880 made holding an etching needle or painting en plein aire with oils or watercolors impractical. Pastels, however, were an ideal medium. Whistler completed 90 pastels while in Venice, describing them in a letter to his dealer as being “totally new and of a brilliancy very different from the customary watercolor.”
In comparison to older and contemporary pastels, Whistler’s Venetian pastels were strikingly sketchy, with large areas of paper left blank. Criticized by a conservative contemporary critic as “vaguely incoherent,” the pastels are appealing to the modern eye. Whistler used color to indicate the magical effects of light on a Venice encased in winter. You can find collection of his Venice works in Whistler’s Venice book.
His most famous painting the iconic Whistler’s Mother, oil on canvas, made in 1871 is displayed in a frame of Whistler’s own design, and is now owned by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Upon this painting post stamp was made in memory and in honor of Mothers of America.
Hilaire-Germain- Edgar Degas (1834 –1917)
I’m fully aware that every pastelist has heard about Edgar Degas, but the series about Old Pastel Masters wouldn’t be complete without the King of Pastels.
Degas is a french artist, acknowledged as the master of drawing the human figure in motion. He worked in many mediums, preferring pastel to all others. A superb draughtsman, he is especially identified with the subject of the dance but also well known for his paintings, drawings, and bronzes of both ballerinas and of race horse.
The art of Degas reflects a concern for the psychology of movement and expression and the harmony of line and continuity of contour. These characteristics set Degas apart from the other impressionist painters, although he took part in all but one of the 8 impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886. Nevertheless Degas was the strongest promoter of the Impressionist group. It’s well known that he objected the name and considered himself and his compatriots “realists,” which pointed to their interest in drawing inspiration from their own environments and experiences. He was outspoken about the need for artists to join together and establish a place for themselves as proponents of a new, contemporary artistic sensibility. He organized, what is now known as, the first Impressionist exhibition and planned many of the subsequent shows but the term “impressionist” was adopted later, at the time of the third Impressionist exhibition.
As a young man, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and copied works of art at the Louvre. He admired the old masters, particularly Renaissance painters, and the more contemporary works of Eugéne Delacroix (1798-1863) and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867).
By the later 1870s Degas had mastered not only the traditional medium of oil on canvas, but pastel as well. Pastels which he applied in complex layers and textures, enabled him more easily to reconcile his facility for line with a growing interest in expressive color. Degas stated that pastels were more suitable for his delicate studies, however they also had several other advantages for him – they were much quicker to work with than paint and so were of major assistance in his experimental works. Besides traditional pastels he also used powdered pastel which, when mixed with water, could be applied with a brush. The career of Edgar Degas was a long one – about 60 years out of the 83 which he lived. He never married but his relationship with Mary Cassatt was unique and interpreted as intimate.
On the youtube you can find a lot of his works and I’m pointing to dancers which like the best.
I have found this painting by Paul Cezanne for which Wikipedia claims to be in pastel. I’m not sure about it and maybe someone knowledgeable can help with some information. The painting hangs in The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Please click on it to enlarge it and tell what you think in comment area and/or in the poll.
Check the answer in the comments.
Mary Stevenson Cassatt (1844– 1926) was an American painter and printmaker best known for her portraits of children and her groupings of mothers and their children. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The faculty at the Academy encouraged students to study abroad. In 1865 Cassatt approached her parents with the idea of studying in Paris. Initialy they objected the idea but afterwards relented and allowed her to go. She lived much of her adult life in France. Her first exposure to French artists Ingres, Delacroix, Degas, Pissarro, Corot, and Courbet was likely at the Paris World’s Fair of 1855. Later she exhibited among them.
Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt shared a very unique and intimate relationship. Both rejecting the conservative artistic directions, Cassatt’ and Degas’ restless intelligence drew them together. They inspired and facilitated each others’ artistic careers. Cassatt even proclaims “the first sight of Degas’ pictures was the turning point in my artistic life”. In fact, it was the sight of Degas’ pastel work that turned Cassatt onto pastel for the first time. Supporting Degas’s work Cassatt bought one of his pastels and brought it back to home thus making it the first Impressionist artwork to come to America. The way in which they influenced each other is apparent through their choice of subjects and the materials and techniques they used. Initially Cassatt copied Degas pastel work, but soon Degas was duplicating her innovative techniques of combining pastel, gouache and metallic paint on paper mounted on canvas, as seen in Cassatt’s “At the Theater” (1879).
She was an unconventional woman in her time, not marrying or having any children of her own, but preferring to travel and live a bohemian life alone in Europe. As a woman she succeeded in the primarily male dominated world of art and became a member of the Impressionist circle. She was the only American to have her work shown at the independent exhibitions of the Impressionists.
Interesting clip of her work you can find on youtube.
After you read all about Mary you can have fun taking the art quiz.
Metropolitan Art Museum, New York
Museum of Fine Art, Boston