Portrait of De La Tour by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

Portrait of Quentin De La Tour by Jean-Baptiste Perroneau
Portrait of Quentin De La Tour by Jean-Baptiste Perroneau

This is the portrait made by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau that he exhibited in the Salon 1750. Perronneau exhibited his pastel portrait of Maurice-Quentin de la Tour, but found to his dismay that La Tour was exhibiting his own self portrait, perhaps a malicious confrontation to demonstrate his superiority in pastel technique.

Old Pastel Master: Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin (1699 -1779) was a French painter, considered as the master of still life. He was also well known for domestic scenes remarkable for their intimate realism and tranquil atmosphere and the luminous quality of their paint.
During his lifetime, Chardin was recognized as one of the great painters of his day and, rightfully, appreciation for his work has never waned. Rejecting the styles and subjects of his contemporaries, Chardin elevated the still life to a noble art form and achieved a place for himself as a quiet revolutionary in the pantheon of art history.
He turned to pastels in later life when his eyesight began to fail. His pastel works had no equal in freshness and spontaneity but they were not widely admired in Chardin’s own time. Those pastels, most of which are in the Louvre Museum, are highly regarded now.
The critic Denis Diderot wrote in 1763 that a still life by Chardin “is nature itself; the objects free themselves from the canvas and are deceptively true to life.” Chardin has continued to be greatly admired, inspiring many 19th-century artists, including Manet and Cézanne. Novelist Marcel Proust wrote, “We have learned from Chardin that a pear is as living as a woman, that an ordinary piece of pottery is as beautiful as a precious stone.”
Nice collection of his works you can find on youtube, but also in web art galleries and Olga’s gallery.
If you speak French, an interesting review of his work is on youtube.

Old Pastel Master: Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau pastel works

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (1715-1783) was a French painter who specialized in portraits executed in pastels.
Perronneau began his career as an engraver, apparently studying with Laurent Cars, whose portrait he drew, and working for the entrepreneurial printseller Gabriel Huquier, making his first portraits in oils, and especially in pastels, in the 1740s. His career was much in the shadow of the master of the French pastel portrait, Maurice Quentin de La Tour. This led him to seek a clientele outside Paris, especially it seems in Orléans, but also in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon and in Turin, Rome and Amsterdam. Less popular with the high aristocracy than La Tour, he painted mostly the senior Officials, and the upper bourgeoisie, engineers, doctors and clergy. On the other hand he seems to have been particularly favoured and respected by his own colleagues.
In the Salon of 1750, Perronneau exhibited his pastel portrait of  Maurice-Quentin de la Tour, but found to his dismay that La Tour was exhibiting his own self portrait, perhaps a malicious confrontation to demonstrate his superiority in pastel technique.
Perronneau was born in Paris but died unknown in Amsterdam at age 68.

Old Pastel Master: Maurice Quentin de la Tour

Maurice Quentin de la Tour

Maurice Quentin de La Tour (1704-1788) was a French Rococo portraitist who worked primarily with pastels. Among his most famous subjects were Voltaire, Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour. He was the son of a musician who disapproved of his painting career. That’s why he has as teenager left home and went to Paris where he was thought to paint. He went to Rheims in 1724 and to England in 1725, returning to Paris to resume his studies around 1727. In Paris he also had learned about new medium “pastel” made so popular by a young Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. After returning to Paris, he adopted pastel as the sole medium of his portraits.
In 1737 La Tour exhibited the first of a splendid series of 150 portraits that served as one of the glories of the Paris Salon for the next 37 years. In the age of 46 he was appointed portraitist to the King, which established his reputation among the royalty and upper middle class.

There is an interesting story about his character and attitude: While painting Madame de Pompadour (click on the link to hear interesting story about this painting) he ask not to be disturbed but: “A quarter of an hour had scarcely passed when the door of the apartment opened and the King entered. Lifting his cap, La Tour said to his model, “You promised, Madame, that your door should be closed to visitors.” Louis laughed good at both the costume and the rebuke of the artist, and begged him to proceed with his work. “It is impossible for me to obey your Majesty,” replied La Tour: “I will return when Madame is alone.” There-upon he walked into another room to dress himself, saying as he went, “I don’t like to be interrupted.”
Towards the end of his life, he founded an art school and became a philanthropist before begin confined to his home because of mental illness. He retired at the age of 80 to Saint-Quentin where now stands the Musee Antoine Lecuyer with it’s wonderful collection of close to 80 works by this master of pastel

There is an interesting interactive tour of his work on interactive pages of the Museum “Antoine Lecuyer”.

Old Pastel Master: Jean-Etienne Liotard

Jean-Etienne Liotard (1702-1789) was born in Geneve, Switzerland, where he was trained as a miniature painter. In his twenties he sought his fortune in Paris, where he studied in a prominent painter’s studio. After rejection by the Académie Royale, he traveled to Italy, where he obtained numerous portrait commissions.
Liotard next embarked on a journey throughout the Mediterranean region and finally settled in Constantinople for four years. Intrigued by the native dress, he grew a long beard and acquired the habit of dressing as a Turk, earning himself the nickname of “the Turkish painter”. For the rest of his life, Liotard traveled throughout Europe painting portraits in pastels. In Rome 1735 he painted portraits of Pope Clement XII and several cardinals. He traveled to Vienna in 1743 to paint the portraits of Empress Maria Theresa and her family, visited England from 1753 to 1755 and painted portraits of the Princess of Wales and other notables.
His painting style intimately captured a tender and realistic representation of his subjects. Later settling in his birthplace of Geneva, he wrote “Treatise on the Art of Painting”, in which he claimed painting ought to be a mirror of nature. This strong belief is seen prominently in his portraits, but also in still-life works and landscapes he painted later in life.


Musées d’art et d’histoire, Geneva
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

Old Pastel Master: Rosalba Carriera

Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757) was one of the most successful women artists of any era. The Venetian-born Rosalba Carriera spent most of her long life fulfilling commissions for distinguished patrons at courts across 18th-century Europe. Rosalba developed an innovative approach to the medium of pastel for which she is best known today. Carriera’s greatest patron was Augustus III of Poland, who sat for her in 1713 and eventually amassed a collection of more than 150 pastels by the artist, which are currently part of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie in Germany.
Rosalba Carriera is credited with having greatly popularized the medium of pastels in France during the early 1700s; and with introducing, perhaps even instructing, the renowned French pastel artist, Maurice Quentin de la Tour, to the use of pastels as a portrait medium. Tragically, perhaps as a result of years spent straining to paint miniature portraits, her eyesight failed her the last ten years of her life. She died in 1757 at the age of 81. Along with her long-time friend, Antoine Watteau, whom she also portrayed in pastels. The two of them were considered the leading French portrait artists of the Rococo era.

www resources:
Web Gallery of Art

Some museums and art galleries:

Dresden Gemäldegalerie
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice
Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

Soft Pastel History

I’m starting a series of posts about the old pastel masters and the history of pastel medium. If you want to follow I will also be giving resources I find useful, and of course the posts will be garnished by the old pastel masterpieces. As a start there is a nice short article by Madlyn-Ann C. Woolwich where she chronologically goes from the Italian Renaissance Masters to the modern days. I will follow more or less the same path and present same artists but also try to include other great old artists who sometimes used pastels.

“Maurice Quentin de La Tour 1704-1788, a great name in pastels, studied in Paris. His works were unpolished, not soft or delicate. His work showed competence, clarity, detail and freedom. Many pastelists emulated his frenzy of brilliant colors and textures. He gave pastel a new range and a rage that lasted four decades. Idol of thousands of Parisians, he inspired such painters as Watteau and Perroneau. Thanks to La Tour, pastel was equated with oil.” read more…

Pastel Portraits From the 16th Century to the Present Day

John Russel - Portrait of a lady holding a book
John Russell

At the British National Portrait Gallery website, among the 160,000 portraits, you can find over 100 pastel portraits from the 16th Century to the present day.  Search the collections here with the keyword pastel.
The same gallery is organizing the BP Portrait Award 2010 with the first prize of £25,000. But they get a big thumb down for the following rule:
“The work entered must be predominantly painted in oil, tempera or acrylic and must be on a stretcher or board, preferably framed and unglazed. No watercolours, works on paper or pastels will be considered.”

Henri Roché Soft Pastels

Henri Roche logo

Are you a soft pastel artist who still haven’t tried the most famous pastels in the world? Well, join the club :). I promised myself I will buy a small set the first time I’m completely happy with my painting. While that can still take some time I can at least surf on the net to see why there is so much noise about the Henri Roché pastels. The legend says that the old masters of impressionism used these beautiful pastels. Degas, Chéret, Whistler, Sisley, and later on Bussy, Vuillard, Poliakoff and many others have by their expectations contributed to the elaboration of Roché pastels. The pastel set grew up to 1800 pieces at the peak of production before Second World War and the collection of 1650 colors won the gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937. I guess the old masters were making a lot of money if they could have afforded such exclusive pastels :). The production of these pastels is having a second life since the Isabelle Roché took over the business from her relatives in 2000. Before that there was a small operation run by three elderly sisters carrying on the work of their grandfather, Henri Roché. When the oldest sister was asked why she is still maintaining no profit business at the age of 85 she said “She didn’t want to let the artists down.”
Today Isabelle is producing palette of 600 Henri Roché soft pastels and you can visit her website “La Maison du Pastel”. The website is very nice and you can almost feel the spirits of the old soft pastel masters.
The price for a single stick is from 15$ to 20$ and you can find them at Rochester Art Supply. I found the better deals for the sets on the Amazon.
A couple of resources: a very entertaining story by Barry Katz published in the Pastel Journal 2007. Interesting story from Reuters 2008. Short interview with Isabelle on youtube.

I got good pointers thanks to Casey Klahn and Katherine Tyrell’s blogs.

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