Skip to main content

Pastel

PASTEL

PASTEL. The term "pastel" refers to a dry colored powdery artist's material, the stick or tool into which the material is formed, and the work of art executed with the stick. It also refers to an artistic practice that gives rise to a particular aesthetic approach, pastel painting. The term itself derives from the early modern European pastille (English), pastel (French), and pastello (Italian) used by grocers, apothecaries, and others to describe the various forms in which crushed or powdered substances, formed into viscous pastes, then shaped and dried, were dispensed.

Artists' pastel sticks may be differentiated from naturally available chalks by their constituents and the methods of their production. Natural chalks, amorphous minerals containing clay, have been mined from the earth from prehistoric times and used for drawing as extracted or with minimal shaping. Both fabricated chalks and pastel sticks are colored pastes of natural, fabricated, or synthetic pigments mixed with water-soluble binders and, when they are required to modify consistency and working properties, inert clay binders. Typically, these pastes are formed into cylindrical sticks and dried. Imprecision in identifying fabricated chalk and pastel in works of art results from the impossibility of distinguishing between the two with the unaided eye or low-power magnification; instrumental analysis, which may necessitate sampling, is required.

For a long period, fabricated sticks were probably made for or by artists on an ad hoc basis. In the seventeenth century, they came to be manufactured in commercially available sets that contained large arrays of colored sticks that could be used to produce pastel paintings in a full range of colors and tones. Significantly, sets of sticks were manufactured from mixtures of ingredients selected to ensure that pigments of widely varying physical properties functioned homogenously in use. The letters of the Dutch poet and dramatist Christiaan Huygens (16291695) and his father Constantijn (15961687), the Dutch mathematician, physicist, and astronomer, recount the difficulties these interested amateurs experienced in making a set of pastel sticks for "face painting" (or portraiture) that handled consistently, suggesting that pastel painting was then a novelty.

These sets were used by artists to meet new needs in changing social and cultural contexts. Robert Nanteuil (16231678), the French engraver, practiced pastel painting as a substitute for oil painting to efficiently produce income-generating portraits, thus meeting the desire of status-seeking French professionals for ostentation and the competitive display of their images at the artist's defense of his academic thesis. In a market already dominated by Nicolas de Largillière and Hyacinthe Rigaud, talented portrait artists who worked in oil, the French painter Joseph Vivien (16571734) first made his name painting portraits in pastel, then a relatively "new" technique. By 1710 Vivien had established a solid reputation and turned increasingly to painting in oil. The pastel portraits of the Venetian painter Rosalba Carriera (16751757) reflect most completely the aesthetic aims of pastel painting, gaining her Europe-wide commissions and the patronage of Pierre Crozat and the French court. The materialsshimmering areas of dense luxuriant pastel on soft pliant papercontribute directly to the paintings' cultural meaning, privileging an aesthetic of pleasurable illusion best characterized in the writings of Roger de Piles (16351709).

See also Carriera, Rosalba ; Huygens Family ; Portrait Miniatures .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Boutet, Claude. Traité de la peinture en mignatureAuquel on a ajouté un petit traité de la peinture en pastel. The Hague, 1708.

Chaperon, Paul Romain. Traité de la peinture au pastel . . . par M. P. R. de C. Paris, 1788.

Secondary Sources

Burns, Dorothea S. "Pastel's Histories: A Function-based Study of Narrative Histories of the Development of Pastel from Clouet to Carriera." Ph.D. diss., University of London, Courtauld Institute of Art, 2002.

Townsend, Joyce. "Analysis of Chalk and Pastel Materials." The Paper Conservator 22 (1998): 2128.

Watrous, James. The Craft of Old Master Drawings. Madison, Wis., 1957.

Dorothea Burns

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Pastel." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Pastel." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pastel

"Pastel." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pastel

pastel

pastel (păstĕl´), artists' medium of chalk and pigment, tempered with weak gum water and usually molded in the form of sticks; also a work done in this medium. Pastel was in use in Italy in the 15th cent. and is doubtless much older. It was introduced into 18th-century France by the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. The medium was then used by such masters as Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Vigée-Lebrun, and in the 19th cent. by Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, and Cassatt. In the 20th cent. Matisse was a master of pastel. Pastels are often classified as paintings, although the medium lends itself to the more direct and spontaneous approach of drawing.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pastel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pastel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pastel

"pastel." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/pastel

pastel

pas·tel / paˈstel/ • n. 1. a crayon made of powdered pigments bound with gum or resin. ∎  a work of art created using such crayons: a pastel entitled “Girl Braiding Her Hair.” 2. a soft and delicate shade of a color: the subtlest of pastels and creams. • adj. of a soft and delicate shade or color: pastel blue curtains. DERIVATIVES: pas·tel·ist / -ist/ (also pas·tel·list) n.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pastel." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pastel." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pastel-0

"pastel." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pastel-0

pastel

pastel dry paste used for crayon XVII; drawing in this XIX. — F. pastel, or its source It. pastello, dim. of pasta PASTE.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pastel." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pastel." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pastel-1

"pastel." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pastel-1

pastel

pastelbattle, cattle, chattel, embattle, prattle, rattle, Seattle, tattle •fractal •cantle, covenantal, mantel, mantle, Prandtl •pastel • Fremantle • tittle-tattle •startle, stratal •Nahuatl •fettle, kettle, metal, mettle, nettle, petal, Popocatépetl, settle •dialectal, rectal •dental, gentle, mental, Oriental, parental, rental •transeptal •festal, vestal •gunmetal •antenatal, fatal, hiatal, natal, neonatal, ratel •beetle, betel, chital, decretal, fetal •blackbeetle •acquittal, belittle, brittle, committal, embrittle, it'll, kittle, little, remittal, skittle, spittle, tittle, victual, whittle •edictal, rictal •lintel, pintle, quintal •Bristol, Chrystal, crystal, pistol •varietal • coital • phenobarbital •orbital • pedestal • sagittal • vegetal •digital • skeletal • Doolittle •congenital, genital, primogenital, urogenital •capital • lickspittle • hospital • marital •entitle, mistitle, recital, requital, title, vital •subtitle • surtitle •axolotl, bottle, dottle, glottal, mottle, pottle, throttle, wattle •fontal, horizontal •hostel, intercostal, Pentecostal •greenbottle • bluebottle • Aristotle •chortle, immortal, mortal, portal •Borstal •anecdotal, sacerdotal, teetotal, total •coastal, postal •subtotal •brutal, footle, pootle, refutal, rootle, tootle •buttle, cuttle, rebuttal, scuttle, shuttle, subtle, surrebuttal •buntal, contrapuntal, frontal •crustal • societal • pivotal •hurtle, kirtle, myrtle, turtle

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"pastel." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"pastel." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pastel

"pastel." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved May 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/pastel