Old Pastel Master: Edouard Manet

Pastel Art by Edouard Manet

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.

Interesting short films about Manet you can watch on the clip.
More information about Manet at Wiki, Metropolitan Museum of the Art, Musee d’Orsay.

Amazon Source for Manet

Old Pastel Master: James Whistler

James Whistler Pastel works

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.


Wikipedia; Wetcanvas, The Pastel Journal; Traditional Fine Arts OrganizationOlgas’ Gallery


Taft Museum of Art, America; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Tate Gallery London;  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;  Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC;  Terra Museum of American Art (United States)


Portrait of Mary Cassatt by Edgar Degas

Portrait of Mary Stevenson Cassatt by Edgar Degas

This is the portrait of Mary Cassatt made by Eduard Degas. Not much is known about Mary Cassatt’s relationship with Degas, as she burned all their correspondence before she died. However, it is generally assumed that the two were lovers, although nothing can be proved. What is certain is that the two painters had a close, sometimes turbulent, relationship over a period of forty years that ended with Degas’ death in 1917. Degas’ difficult nature often lead to periods of estrangement that could only be ended when mutual friends brought the two together again. It must have taken all Mary’s reserves of diplomacy to deal with Degas’ sometimes cruel nature.

Resource: Wetcanvas

Featured Pastel Artist: Jerry H. Brown

Jerry Brown was born and raised in Kirksville, Missouri. He enrolled in college in 1964 with no set plan or major field of study in mind. He took several art classes, enjoyed them and was encouraged by his teachers. He soon decided to earn a degree in Art Education. After two years in the Army he earned a Masters Degree in Studio Art from The University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Jerry Brown

Jerry taught High School art for 30 years. During that time he continued to work on his art, and frequently exhibited his watercolors in local and national shows. Now retired from teaching, he is pursuing his art full time.

Jerry worked as a watercolor artist for 30 years before moving to pastels. Many of the skills he developed with watercolor have influenced the way he uses pastels. He likes to paint a variety of subjects, figurative being his favorite.

Old Pastel Master: Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas Pastel works

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.


Wikipedia; BrainyQuotesEdgar Degas – The complete works; web-museum; National Gallery of Australia; biography.com; Olga’s gallery; Metropolitan Art Museum; MoodBook;


Musée d’Orsay, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC;  The Hermitage, St. Petersburg;

Featured Pastel Artist: Alan Flattmann

Alan Flattmann was born in New Orleans and attended the John McCrady Art School there. Alan is an exceptional artist whose work is filled with the rich imagery of the world as he sees it. For me he is one of the greatest living pastel artists. With a keen sense of history and place, he has traveled the world with his pastels, ready to let the continuity of time, tradition, and landscape speak to his imagination. Though he has gained a considerable following for his paintings of Caribbian and Mediteranian landscapes and people, Flattmann always returns home to his native New Orleans and the French Quarter for renewed inspiration. His Franch Quarter Impressions reveal the artist’s continuing love affair with a place that has tempered his work and his view of the world.
In 2006, the PSA honored Alan’s outstanding art by inducting him into the PSA Hall of Fame. He is the recipient of the IAPS Master Circle Award and is the founder and current president of the Degas Pastel Society.
His work is the subject of three books, Alan Flattmann’s French Quarter Impressions (2002), The Art of Pastel Painting (1987-92) and The Poetic Realism of Alan Flattmann (1980). Check the preview of these Alan’s books. His work has also been featured in many major art publications and the latest I found is the cover page of the Best of America Pastel Artists Vol II. To see more of Alan’s work visit Bryant Gallery Website.

Mike Mahon’s Pastel Demo

by Mike Mahon

Mike Mahon paints the colors and people of Texas, Northern New Mexico, and Mexico. His landscapes, portraits, and slice-of-life vignettes depict a taste for the unusual scenes, expressions, and moments. His impressionistic style adds depth and a surprising realism of light and shadow to his paintings. Mike’s paintings have earned numerous awards and recognitions. He was one of the featured artists in the 2004 edition of 100 Ways to Paint People and Figures, published by International Artist Magazine and here you can see the page with Mike’s painting and the explanation of the process he used. He is a Signature member of the the Pastel Society of America and Lone Star Pastel Society.
On his website Mike is offering a demo of a landscape painting.

Sandy Askey-Adams Passionate About Pastels

Sandy Askey-Adams Natures Quietude
by Sandy Askey-Adams

The main focus of Sandy Askey-Adams work is the interpretation of nature and its moods. Embracing a poetically sensitive and gentle style, she strives to communicate a greater sense of love and peace to her viewers with each new work. She loves working in pastels for the dramatic contrasts, the rich layers of colors and the vibrant visual luminescence that can be achieved with pastels. She believes that the pastel medium will help achieve what she wishes to capture in the essence of nature. Sandy is associate member of PSA, and a signature member of Maryland Pastel Society, and her works were selected for inclusion in the book Best of America – Pastel Artists, Vol ll.

Sandy claims to be passionate about painting and especially passionate about the pastel medium. I think everyone believes her since she runs the biggest Facebook group dedicated to pastels Passionate About Pastels – National and International. The pastel artists from around the world are invited to join this group, share thoughts, ideas, suggestions on types of paper, favorite pastels, anything there is to share about pastels. Sandy and the group are trying to reach 1000 members, and if you have the Facebook account please join.

Featured Pastel Artist: Deborah Secor

If you are following this blog then you have heard many times about Deborah Secor. Deborah is a very resourceful artist and is always willing to share her knowledge.  Most recently, she published a free book about pastels in the form of a blog called Landscape Painting in Pastels.
Deborah received a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art in 1979 and her work has been in many galleries and shows. She studied for several years with Master Pastelist Albert Handell, personally considering this to have been her ‘advanced degree’ work. Deborah is one of the founders and the first President of the Pastel Society of New Mexico and holds Signature Membership in the society. A regular contributor to The Artist’s Magazine, The Pastel Journal and other publications, Deborah has published two instructional DVDs devoted to pastels. The first, Get Started in Pastels: Deborah Secor Paints the Landscape (see preview) is one of the best selling DVDs released by F&W Media. Her second DVD is about Painting Outdoor Shadows in Pastel (see preview). As a regular contributor on the WetCanvas Soft Pastel forum, Deborah has made a numerous demos and tutorials. Some of the best are now available in The Soft Pastel Learning Center.

Since Deborah also works in gouache, besides her Art and Faith blog you can visit an additional blog solely dedicated to her gouache paintings.
More resources:
ArtistNetwork demo
PanPastel video (30 min)

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”.

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