What is pastel?

So just what is pastel?

As put by the founder of the Pastel Society of America, Flora Baldini Giffuni writes:
"Technically, pastel is powdered pigment, rolled into round or square sticks and held together with methylcellulose, a non-greasy binder. It can either be blended with finger and stump, or left with visible strokes and lines. Generally, the ground is toned paper, but sanded boards and canvas are also popular. If the ground is covered completely with pastel, the work is considered a Pastel Painting; a Pastel Sketch shows much of the ground. When protected by fixative and glass, pastel is the most permanent of all media, for it never cracks, darkens or yellows.

Historically, its origin can be traced back to the Sixteenth Century, when Guido Reni, Jacopo Bassano, and Federigo Barocci were notable practitioners. Rosalba Carriera, 1675-1750, a Venetian lady artist, was the first to make consistent use of pastel. Thereafter, a galaxy of artists, Delacroix, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Vuillard, Glackens, and Whistler, just to list the more familiar names, used pastel as finished work, rather than for preliminary sketches.

Degas was the most prolific user of pastel, and its champion, for he raised it to the full brilliance of oil. His protege, Mary Cassatt, introduced the Impressionists and pastel to her wealthy friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the United States. Today, many of our most renowned living artists have distinguished themselves in pastels, and have enriched the world with this glorious medium."

Flora Baldini Giffuni, founder of Pastel Society of America



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