ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Best Books about Pastel Artists

Updated on September 22, 2015
makingamark profile image

Katherine has researched and written about many British, European and Japanese Artists - both past and present

'Self-Portrait with a Visor' by Jean-Baptiste-Simon Chardin (crop)
'Self-Portrait with a Visor' by Jean-Baptiste-Simon Chardin (crop)

Introducing the Masters of Pastels

Find out which are the best books for those wanting to learn more from the Masters of Pastels from the past

Learn about:

  • famous pastel artists in art history - Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, Edgar Degas, Odilon Redon, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Rosalba Carriera
  • much admired pastel artists of today such as Wolf Kahn and Albert Handel

Also listed are the best NEW books about Pastel Artists

Why study pastel artists?

I learned most of what I know about pastels from studying the artwork produced by pastel artists of the past and present.

While I can go to the annual exhibition of The Pastel Society to see the range of different ways of working and what can be done by contemporary pastel artists in the UK, it's less easy to see the artwork of past masters or the work of contemporary artists working in the USA and elsewhere around the world.

This is largely because museums are a tad wary of what happens when you expose pastels to light. This mainly relates to the support used rather than the pastels as the pigments used are the same as those used for oil paints of the same era. Plus of course they're not around to do videos as tutorials which you can view on YouTube!

So, some 25 years ago, the solution I found was to buy books and monographs about pastel artists and study their artwork in books. It's obviously not as good as the real thing but it does allow you to see more than you can easily do in exhibitions.

Once you've found the artists whose work you can like you can also try to see which of them have their work online. While you'll find some, I've found that frequently you can see much more in a book - which is why I have a lot of books about pastel artists

Below are some of the books I suggest you look at. For some this will mean buying secondhand copies as they are out of print and difficult to get hold of - although there are some new copies around if you search.

Artists from the Past

Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800
Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800

Hardcover: 757 pagesPublisher: Unicorn Press (July 14, 2006)

 

Dictionary of Pastellists Before 1800 - by Neil Jeffares

This book aims to create a body of knowledge about both pastel artists and pastel artworks before 1800 - and to attribute works to artists. It won the Besterman/McColvin medal for the outstanding reference book published in the UK in 2006.

The Dictionary includes:

  • the documented records of some 20,000 pastels (from exhibition and auction records and otherwise in public collections) - plus a topographical index which locates where these are
  • summaries of details known about 1,250 named artists - plus a survey which locates pastel artists within the various schools and periods of art
  • a list of all exhibitions including pastel artwork between 1704 to 2005
  • some 5,000 reproductions, many never before published, and references to all known reproductions of other pastels

Pastels: From the 16th to the 20th century
Pastels: From the 16th to the 20th century

Hardcover: 140 pages

Publisher: Rizzoli (January 15, 1988)

Language: English

Language: French

 

Pastels from the 16th to the 20th Century - by Genevieve Monnier

I've got two copies of this book - a paperback and a hardback. It was one of the first ever books I bought on the history behind the use of pastels as an art medium.

It's invaluable for the serious student of pastel art history and pastel artists

15th Century Pastel Artists

Leonardo da Vinci

April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519

More about Leonardo da Vinci - drawing with pastel from 1499

Leonardo da Vinci used to refer to pastel as "the dry colouring method".

He apparently learned how to use it from Jean Perreal, a French artist, who visited Milan in 1499. Initially he only used colours with a light touch to highlight, for example, the neckline of a dress. It became common practice in Italy in the 16th century to use pastel to heighten drawings with light touches of colour.

The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist (c.1499-1450)  black chalk on coloured paper This is a  drawing on paper which is a cartoon for a painting, 141.5 x 104.6 cm Location: National Gallery, London
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist (c.1499-1450) black chalk on coloured paper This is a drawing on paper which is a cartoon for a painting, 141.5 x 104.6 cm Location: National Gallery, London | Source
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci

Paperback: 700 pagesPublisher: Taschen; Reprint edition (August 29, 2011)Language: English

 

Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings

Rated 4.7 out of 5 stars (48 customer reviews)

A classic Taschen production - seeking to bring high quality production values to a complete record of da Vinci's work - which includes his drawings using chalk.

18th Century Pastel Artists

Pastel Portraits in the 18th Century

In the 18th century, pastel paintings were held in high regard.

They were large, mainly used for portraiture and displayed like oil paintings. As a result almost 2,500 professional artists and amateurs were working in pastel in Paris alone by 1750.

Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Paperback: 56 pagesPublisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art (June 21, 2011)

 

Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe

Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe was an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011.

The companion book to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, presents:

  • more than 40 pastel portraits by French, Italian, English, Swiss, and American artists.
  • a technical discussion of the materials
  • an explanation for why pastels achieved widespread popularity in the 1700s.

Rated an average of 5.0 out of 5 stars based on 2 customer reviews

Rosalba Carriera

7 October 1675 - 15 April 1757

Self-portrait holding a portrait of her sister (1715or 1709) pastel on paper. This pastel is in the Uffizi Gallery
Self-portrait holding a portrait of her sister (1715or 1709) pastel on paper. This pastel is in the Uffizi Gallery | Source

More about Rosalba Carriera

Rosalba Carrera was a Venetian born painter who pioneered the use of pastels for portraiture - as opposed to the studies and drawings they'd been used for hitherto.

Great Women Masters of Art (Great Masters of Art)
Great Women Masters of Art (Great Masters of Art)

Paperback: 480 pages

Publisher: Watson-Guptill

(January 1, 2003)

 

Great Women Masters of Art

Includes a section on Rosalba Carrerra - but also covers every other great female artist

Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 5 customer reviews

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

2 November 1699 - 6 December 1779

"You use colours, but you paint with your feelings"

— Chardin (page 322 of 'Chardin')

The pastel art of Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin

Chardin was a well regarded painter of still life and animals in oil for most of his career. As he got older his eyesight deteriorated and he began to use pastels towards the end of his life.

His approach to pastels is based essentially on his exquisite draughtsmanship. However for me, he uses pastels as an oil painter and demonstrates very clearly why we have a group of painters who are well known for their use of oils and pastels.

He exhibited three pastels at the Salon of 1771 and again exhibited pastels at the Salons of 1773, 1775, 1777 and 1779. They mainly aroused interest because of his age and the fact he was still producing art. They consisted solely of portraits - as the genre demanded re. the use of pastel at the time. Subsequently the three self-portraits preserved in the Louvre have brough him fame.

Self-Portrait with a Visor  (1776) by Jean-Baptiste-Simon Chardin. Pastel on blue laid paper, mounted on canvas Height: 457 mm (17.99 in). Width: 374 mm (14.72 in).
Self-Portrait with a Visor (1776) by Jean-Baptiste-Simon Chardin. Pastel on blue laid paper, mounted on canvas Height: 457 mm (17.99 in). Width: 374 mm (14.72 in). | Source
Chardin
Chardin

Hardcover: 360 pagesPublisher: Yale University Press; 1St Edition edition (May 2000)

 

Chardin - the catalogue of the international exhibition to celebrate the tercentenary of the artist's birth

Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars based on 5 customer reviews for this book

This catalogue is associated with four exhibitions of Chardin's work to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1979 exhibition of Chardin's work (which celebrated the bicentenerary of his death) and the tercenterary of his birth on 2 November 1699.

The exhibition comprised 66 artworks which provided a survey of Chardin's distinguished career as a still life and genre painter. The exhibitions were in:

  • Paris - at the Grand Palais (7 September - 22 November 1999)
  • Dusseldorf - at the Kunstmuseum (5 December 1999 - 20 February 2000)
  • London - at the Royal Academy of arts (11 March - 29 May 2000)

New York - The Metropolitan Museum of Art (27 June - 3 September 2000)

These were the first exhibitions of Chardin's work in either London or New York.

Described as a "milestone in Chardin Scholarship" this book comprises a chronology and six essays which precede the catalogue. The catalogue sections are:

  • Chardin's Beginnings and his first Still Lifes
  • Utensils and Household Objects and First commissions
  • Genre Scenes
  • Chardin's return to Still-Life Painting
  • The Pastels (1771 - 1779)

plus a comprehensive list of exhibitions, bibliography and indexes of both names and artworks. The author, Pierre Rosenberg, was the then Director of the Musee de Louvre in Paris and a member of the Academie Francaise.

(Note: there are obviously some listings for another book which have been listed under this one. The very critical reviews have been discounted as they don't relate to this book)

Maurice Quentin de La Tour

5 September 1704 - 17 February 1788

Les Pastels de Maurice-Quentin de La Tour Du Musee Lecuyer a Saint-Quentin (French Edition)
Les Pastels de Maurice-Quentin de La Tour Du Musee Lecuyer a Saint-Quentin (French Edition)

Paperback: 244 pages

Publisher: HardPress Publishing (January 28, 2013)

Language: French

NOTE THE LANGUAGE IS FRENCH

 

Les Pastels de Maurice-Quentin de La Tour Du Musee Lecuyer a Saint-Quentin (French Edition)

This is a reproduction of a classic text - in French

More about Maurice Quentin de La Tour

Maurice Quentin de La Tour has been described as the the most important pastel artist of the 18th century.

He began working in pastels in 1727 and had many well known sitters for his pastel portraits. In 1750 he became Portraitist to the King.

Features of his pastel artwork and his techniques are as follows:

  • he's a perfectionist who prefers to draw rather than paint
  • he likes using the same colour palette of pinks, blues and whites
  • his use of colour is very controlled
  • lighting is typically subtle and he indicates form and shade on the face through the use of blue hatching - typically on the temples and jowels
  • his work sometimes shows line work and hatching over stumped patches of colour . This varies in the extent to which it is evident in his work
  • he demonstrates complete mastery of the portrayal of fabric and the textures of faces and accessories.
  • he was an innovator - and used adhesives to join lots of sheets of paper together to create large portraits

Pierre-Louis Laideguive (1761) by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (1704 - 1788) Pastel on coloured paper and canvas Height: 947 mm (37.28 in). Width: 763 mm (30.04 in)
Pierre-Louis Laideguive (1761) by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (1704 - 1788) Pastel on coloured paper and canvas Height: 947 mm (37.28 in). Width: 763 mm (30.04 in) | Source

19th Century Artists

Edgar Degas

19 July 1834 – 27 September 1917

The pastel artwork of Edgar Degas

Most of Degas's pastel works were done in his later years when he could no longer paint in oils. These were executed when he was working in probably the most impressionistic and colourful phase of his career - which very probably has something to do with how much and what he could see.

Degas used strong hatching - and clear optical mixing as key features of his pastel work. He's very much influenced my own work in this respect as a result. One of my favourite occupations when new Degas pastels come to London is to sit and try and copy them using my coloured pencils which are acceptable media for use in art galleries. Being dry media you can achieve something of a similar effect if used on their side.

Degas liked experimenting with different media and was an innovator which accounts for some of the unusual supports he used. One of his techniques was to mix pastel dust with fixative so it stuck to the support. He also used monoprints "as if" they were underpaintings for his pastels.

Degas Pastels
Degas Pastels

Hardcover: 191 pages

Publisher: George Braziller;

1ST edition (October 1992)

 

Degas Pastels - by Jean Sutherland Boggs and Anne F. Maheux

Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars based on 1 customer review

This book covers 70 of the 700 pastels produced by Degas. Each has a full plate with a facing page commentary. The book also comprises two essays and a chronology of Degas and the pastels, cited exhibitions, a selected bibliography, and a glossary of technical terms.

Many of the works reproduced are in private collections and have not been published before.

Jean Sutherland Boggs is a leading Degas scholar

Degas: Pastels (Watson-Guptill Famous Artists)
Degas: Pastels (Watson-Guptill Famous Artists)

Series: Watson-Guptill Famous Artists

Paperback: 88 pages

Publisher: Watson-Guptill;

2nd edition (September 1, 1984)

 

Degas: Pastels - by Alfred Werner

Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars based on 2 customer reviews

Said to be the finest collection of Degas pastels to appear in book form - 32 paintings, reproduced on special paper with fidelity to the originals.

A lot of pastels by Degas can be seen in this video of an exhibition

Claude Monet

14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926

The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings (Clark Art Institute)
The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings (Clark Art Institute)

Hardcover: 328 pages

Publisher: Clark Art Institute

(April 26, 2007)

 

The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings - by James A. Ganz and Richard Kendall

This book is the catalogue of the exhibition of the same name which opened at

  • the Royal Academy of Arts in London 17 March - 10 June 2007
  • Sterling and Francine Carter Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts 24th June - 16th September 2007

The exhibition comprised some 80 works many of which had never been seen in public before. It reviewed the links between drawings, pastels and paintings during his career. It revealed drawing as being an important part of Monet's preparation to paint.

Rated an average of 5.0 out of 5 stars by 6 customer reviews

I own a copy - bought at the exhibition - and to my mind it's an extremely well researched catalogue which is comprehensive on this topic

'You must begin by drawing. Draw simply and directly, with charcoal, crayon or whatever, above all observing the contours, because you can never be too sure of holding on to them, once you start to paint.'

— Claude Monet (1920)

The Pastel Art of Claude Monet

Monet's pastel drawings are seen only rarely. However in 2007, there was an exhibition "The Unknown Monet" which was devoted to his works on paper - including his pastel drawings

Some of his pastel drawings of the Charing Cross and Waterloo Bridges in fog - drawn from his room in the Savoy - are colourist in nature and to my mind look very contemporary.

I went to see the exhibition and reviewed it on my blog. I've also visited the Savoy Hotel and stood where Monet stood to draw and paint the scenes along the River Thames just outside.

Mary Cassatt

May 22, 1844 – June 14, 1926

I am not willing to admit that a woman can draw that well

— Edgar Degas (about Mary Cassatt)
Mary Cassatt: Oils and Pastels
Mary Cassatt: Oils and Pastels

Paperback: 87 pages

Publisher: Watson-Guptill (January 1, 2000)

 

Mary Cassatt: Oils and Pastels

Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars based on 6 customer reviews

In addition to the colour plates, this book includes a biography of Cassatt

Published in co-operation with the National gallery of Art in Washington

Mary Cassatt: Reflections of Women's Lives
Mary Cassatt: Reflections of Women's Lives

Hardcover: 96 pages

Publisher: Stewart, Tabori and Chang;

First American Edition edition (September 1, 1998)

 

Mary Cassatt: Reflections of Women's Lives

Published in association a major 1998 retrospective exhibition shown at the Art Institute in Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C

A lecture about Mary Cassatt at Program at the Hudson Library & Historical Society.

Odilon Redon

April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916

Odilon Redon: Pastels
Odilon Redon: Pastels

Hardcover: 189 pages

Publisher: George Braziller;

First Edition edition (November 1987)

 

Odilon Redon: Pastels

This was one of the first books I bought when starting to collect books about pastel artists. This was, in part, because there are so few books about pastel artists - and even though I didn't have a clue about the artist, I thought the pastel artwork looked interesting and was something I could learn from.

Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Flower Clouds (1903) Pastel, with touches of stumping, incising, and brushwork, on blue-gray wove paper with multi-colored fibers altered to tan, perimeter mounted to cardboard; 44.5 × 54.2 cm (17.5 × 21.3 in)
Flower Clouds (1903) Pastel, with touches of stumping, incising, and brushwork, on blue-gray wove paper with multi-colored fibers altered to tan, perimeter mounted to cardboard; 44.5 × 54.2 cm (17.5 × 21.3 in) | Source

James McNeill Whistler

Pastels by James McNeill Whistler

Some of Whistler's most attractive drawings are done in pastel on a variety of supports. Pastel is particularly effective at getting an atmospheric vapour which is one of Whistler's motifs.

Traditionally he used pastels in the same way as most other artists did - for portraits and figure studies. However, like Monet he also extended their use to capturing images of the places he visited. My favourites are the ones he did in Venice.

James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)
James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonné (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)

Series: The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art

Hardcover: 684 pages

Publisher: Paul Mellon Centre BA;

First Edition edition (June 28, 1995)

 

James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours: A Catalogue Raisonne

This is a Catalogue Raisonne for the serious scholar. It also documents the changes in Whistler's drawings in pastels - particularly in relation to the Venetian period.

The author Margaret F. MacDonald is a world authority on the art of Whistler.

20th Century Pastel Artists

Georgia O'Keeffe

November 15, 1887 - March 6, 1986

O'Keeffe On Paper (National Gallery of Art Publications)
O'Keeffe On Paper (National Gallery of Art Publications)

Grade Level: 8 and up

Hardcover: 142 pages

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams;

First edition. edition (April 1, 2000)

 

O'Keeffe On Paper

This is the catalogue for an exhibition of O'Keeffe's works on paper organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington and the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

O'Keeffe on Paper - the catalogue - includes 80 illustrations including 60 in full colour.

Wolf Kahn

born October 4, 1927

Wolf Kahn: Pastels
Wolf Kahn: Pastels

Hardcover: 156 pages

Publisher: Harry N. Abrams;

First Edition edition (September 1, 2000)

 

Wolf Kahn: Pastels

Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 17 customer reviews

For people who like:

  • contemporary pastel art
  • contemporary landscapes
  • artists who push colour boundaries and our perception

© 2013 Katherine Tyrrell

Comments and Feedback - Has this site helped you?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    Click to Rate This Article