|Pastel does not at all refer to pale colors, as the word is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion terminology. The name Pastel comes from the French word "pastiche" because the pure,
powdered pigment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colors in the Pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant."
Pastel Society of America
"Women Admiring a Child" by Mary Cassatt, 1897, pastel on paper 26 x 32"
An artwork is created by stroking the sticks
of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the "tooth" of the paper, sandboard or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with Pastel, the work is considered a Pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed
produces a Pastel sketch.
Historically, Pastel can be
traced back to the 16th century. Its invention is attributed to the German painter Johaim Thiele.
Edgar Degas was the most prolific user of Pastel, and its champion. His protege, Mary Cassatt, introduced the impressionist and Pastel to her friends in Philadelphia and Washington, and thus to the United States.
In the spring of 1983, Sotheby Parke Bernet sold at auction two Degas Pastels for more than $ 3,000,000 each! Both Pastels were painted about 1880.
Today, Pastel paintings have the stature of oil and watercolor as a major fine art medium. Many of our most renowned living artists have distinguished themselves in Pastel, and enriched the art world with this beautiful medium.