Old Pastel Master: Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt pastel work

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.


Art Institute of Chicago, Wikipedia, WetCanvas, Lycos, Pricenton, National Art Galery, Olga’s gallery


Metropolitan Art Museum, New York

Museum of Fine Art, Boston

Invitational Pastel Exhibition in Taiwan

taiwan pastel
unknown artist

The International Pastel Artists Invitational Exhibition is open in Taipei, Taiwan from April 1st – May 2nd, 2010. The exhibition is a continued effort from the 2007 and it is organized by the National Taiwan Arts Education Center.

The  co-sponsors of this exhibition are the Pastel Society of America, a French Pastel Association (unspecified which one) and the Hawaii Pastel Association. The exhibited pastel works in this exhibition are provided by artists from different parts of the world as well as Taiwan. The anticipation of the event is that this artistic exchange will help the development of pastel art in Taiwan.

At the same time and at the same venue, a group of teachers from all over Taiwan who have great passion for pastel paintings come together to have their work exhibited at the event Pastel: Feast for Art.

The Pastel 100 – Portrait and Figure 2010

I was trying to find online results of The Pastel Journal 11th annual Pastel 100 Competition but in vain. I guess the PJ has no interest to have these works published online. Therefore I decided to collect all 100 pastel works and artists on this blog. I will try to contact all Pastel 100 artists and whoever agrees I’ll exhibit their work, replacing the Winter works on left column. You can say this is my way of announcing the Spring of 2010.
The first contacted artists are from category Figure and Portrait.
Unison Pastel Award: Akiko Hoshino
Silver medal Award for Excelence: Dawn Emerson
1. Aline E. Ordman
2. William A. Schneider
3. Glen Maxion
4. Brian Freeman
5. Kathryn Hall
Honorable mentions: Rita Kirkman, Helen Kleczynski, Jian Wu, Eleanor Adam (2 works), Glenn Bernabe, September McGee, Bill Baker, Maria P. Molina, Vianna Szabo, Ardith Starostka, Edward L. Rubin

Unfortunately for some artists I could not find web presence or contact.

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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