A Pastel Glutton in Paris

Pastels . . . Paris . . . Inseparable

I’ve been studying pastel masterpieces, drawing, doing a bit of painting of my own; and what better place than Paris to do all this? Paris is the home of some of the finest pastel makers in the world including Sennelier, where we made an early pilgrimage to soak in some of the magic, and Henri Roche, another of the best and probably the most expensive pastels in the world; both of which were reputedly used by Degas.

The Musee d’Orsay has a treasure trove of pastels. Unfortunately, they are still undergoing renovations, so only a small portion of them are on display. But what wonderful ones they are!!! And they have a roomful of Degas’, perhaps the most famous pastelist in the world.

While the Musee d’Orsay is the official repository of 19th century impressionist painting, there is also a small, but unsurpassed collection of impressionists that was donated to Musee du Louvre by Helene and Henry Lyon which includes a Degas pastel that is exquisite.

We’ve seen many pastel paintings on this trip. It was a medium used by most of the impressionists and many artists before and since. One of the advantages of pastel, according to the notes on Degas at Musee d’Orsay, is that during a time when he was short of money he was able to do onsite commissions, painting with pastels, and thus able to turn the sale quickly. But Degas came to love them and used them throughout his long career when speed and income were no longer an issue; many of his most famous paintings are pastels. His technique was unlike many of the other pastelists of the time who used mostly a blended application creating idealized images of women. Degas used pastel to paint a wide range of subjects and experimented with an array of techniques, breaking up surface textures with hatching, contrasting dry pastel with wet, and using gouache and watercolors to soften the contours of his figures.

I will put a few images of my favorite pastel paintings from Paris on this post, but be warned: one thing I have learned on this trip is that no photograph ever does a painting justice. It is important to see paintings in person when you can and to soak in what you can when the painting is in front of you. Another thing that I’ve been reminded of is that museums are constantly changing their displays. Paintings that I hoped to see again are either in the archives or on the road. As with everything in life you must make the most of the moment as it happens for it will never come again.

I’ll also include other pastel related photos and an image of my latest pastel painting, Pigeon Love.

Paris . . . Pigeons . . . Pastel . . . Inseparable


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About Jean

I am a pastel artist. See my Website for more information.
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10 Responses to A Pastel Glutton in Paris

  1. Pingback: Waiting for Van Gogh | Travels With Picasso

  2. Antoinette says:

    I love the nocturnal pastels. The medium seems ideal for that nuanced light. Thanks for sending these images. I’m glad the two of you are having such a good time. Life is short, but art endures.

    • Jean says:

      Thanks for taking a look, Antoinette. I wondered who it was who had looked more closely at the Jardins du Paris by Leandre. I hadn’t seen that one before, but Degouve de Nuncques’ Nocturne au Parc Royal de Bruxelles was one I remembered from 2003. I love it also. It was one of the paintings that really opened my eyes to the possiblities of pastels, beyond what I’d seen of Degas back then.

  3. Such beautiful paintings, Jean, including your “Pigeon in love”. What an experience! My mother would have loved it.

  4. Robin says:

    Yeah–more pictures. I do look forward to seeing your paintings even if pigeon love isn’t among them.

  5. Robin says:

    Pigeon love is exquisite! The posts are so informatvie but I have to admit I love the pictures even more. It may not be as good as seeing the painting in person but it is still awe inspiring anyway. I hope that some day I will get to see pigeon love in person? Keep having fun and sharing your experiences.

    • Jean says:

      Thanks, Robin. I’m glad you like it. You’ll likely get the chance to see Pigeon Love in person. The only reason you might not is that our rent for the studio apartment where we’re staying in Paris is a painting, of our friend’s choice . . . so we’ll see what they want:)

      In fact you’ll get an invitation to see even more photos when we get back. We may put together a CD so that you can see them at your leisure, we haven’t decided yet.

  6. Carolyn says:

    Pardone moi, I meant pastels, not paintings in the first post. And yours with the pigeons fits in with the other just fine! Way to go!! I love it!

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