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