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Pastel

At once a colour scheme and a means to create art, the pastel has always been a complex element of art history. As a technique it rose to prominence during the Renaissance in France and Italy, and during the Enlightenment period it became ever more popular.

In a period dominated by portraiture, a genre strictly reserved for the noble classes, the pastel created a stir for its ability to do justice to the even most extravagant backgrounds. Thanks to the versatility of pastels, it was possible to create contrasts and textures to an astounding degree of realism. They perfectly recreate lightness, elegance and colour, so the technique was perfectly poised to depict a the closed off, privileged world of the elite. Pastel took over amongst artists, who all wanted to master this subtle new practice demanding huge skill and extraordinary control of colours. In 1665 the pastel achieved noble heights and was officially recognised alongside painting and sculpture upon its official approval by the Academy of Painting. The golden age of pastel duly began, epitomised by the likes Fragonard, the undisputed master of the genre. Alongside him were artists such as Liotard or La Tour, who left a legacy of artworks showing the splendour of the court, including the famous portrait of Madame du Pompadour.   

At the end of the 18th century, however, the storm of the Revolution blew through both society and the arts. The pastel was abruptly considered to be a symbol of aristocratic privilege and a hallmark of the old regime, and was cast aside and replaced by the bold strokes of oil painting. In addition to the censoring of pastels, the changing fashions of the time left no room for the pomp and extravagance which artists had been so fond of in the previous century.

In the 19th century the pastel wallowed in obsolescence until artists like Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec staged a miniature renaissance. The much reviled pastel fit in well with their iconoclastic movement, seeking to shock the society that they had begun to feel estranged from. Following this shift, the Symbolists also took up the pastel, finding it perfectly suited to the expression of their emotions – and particularly for their use of light, making the most of the softly blurred effect of the technique.

Today the pastel is still enjoying this second lease of life. Although collectors are still interested in the resilient pigments of the previous centuries, artists are exploring new avenues. Pastels can be used without any intermediary materials and in conjunction with a huge range of other mediums; from sketching to drawing to quality paintings. Its hybrid aesthetic, effortlessly soft or violent, is seducing more and more artists who are rediscovering the medium and its rich history. Artsper invites you to discover our selection of pastel artworks.

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Red Boat in Sunset, Jane Meyler

Red Boat in Sunset

Jane Meyler

Painting - 10.6 x 16.1 x 1.6 inch

$1,405

Yeni Cami (nouvelle mosquée), Serge Salis

Yeni Cami (nouvelle mosquée)

Serge Salis

Fine Art Drawings - 19.3 x 19.3 x 0.1 inch

$803

Lumière sur les nymphéas, Agnès Tiollier

Lumière sur les nymphéas

Agnès Tiollier

Fine Art Drawings - 27.6 x 39.4 x 0.1 inch

$1,305

Tellement mieux, Jéko

Tellement mieux

Jéko

Painting - 25.6 x 19.7 x 0.1 inch

$1,204

Reflets à Giverny III, Agnès Tiollier

Reflets à Giverny III

Agnès Tiollier

Fine Art Drawings - 39.4 x 27.6 x 0.1 inch

$1,305

The darker the night, the brighter the Moon., Alex SanVik

The darker the night, the brighter the Moon.

Alex SanVik

Painting - 19.7 x 13.8 x 0 inch

$1,660

Fiona Weedon: Terra 1, Fiona Weedon

Fiona Weedon: Terra 1

Fiona Weedon

Painting - 27.6 x 19.7 x 0.4 inch

$602

Portrait #2, Jéko

Portrait #2

Jéko

Fine Art Drawings - 11.7 x 8.3 x 0.1 inch

$602

Biology 5 | Aquarelle Abstraite, Gina Vor

Biology 5 | Aquarelle Abstraite

Gina Vor

Painting - 12.6 x 9.4 x 0 inch

$130

The Sun is still warm, Alex SanVik

The Sun is still warm

Alex SanVik

Painting - 17.9 x 17.5 x 0 inch

$1,660

Hyperlaxité mobile, Julien Wolf

Hyperlaxité mobile

Julien Wolf

Fine Art Drawings - 51.2 x 39.4 inch

$2,509

La Joconde, Mathias Z

La Joconde

Mathias Z

Painting - 46.5 x 31.9 x 0.8 inch

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