Inspired by Pastels


Our focus last week was chalk pastel studies. We saw examples of drawings by three Masters who pioneered the media:

Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Toulouse Lautrec. We also looked at the work of some colorful contemporary landscape artists. Degas and Lautrec were both fascinated with movement and gifted draftsmen with a keen sense of observation. They were able to quickly capture the atmosphere and nuances of action and dance. Pastels were easy to transport and perfect for quick studies. They became the medium of choice for Degas and Lautrec who were inspired by the escapism and gaiety of the ballet and nightlife in clubs and cafes. Lautrec often blurred the boundaries between high and low art with his drawings and posters for Moulin Rouge and other theater events in Paris. Cassatt on the other hand, coming from an upper-class family meant that she was virtually housebound unless chaperoned. Her paintings and drawings, as a result, were domestic. They depicted the private lives of women and children doing daily activities behind closed doors. In 1877 Degas invited Mary Cassatt to exhibit in the third Impressionist exhibition. He was an admirer of her work and the two formed a friendship. Cassatt, accompanied by her sister and Degas, were often seen at the Louvre studying artworks together. Degas introduced Cassatt to pastels and etching, and *Cassatt helped Degas sell his paintings and promote his reputation in America. Degas had a printing press in his studio and mentored Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon, Toulouse Lautrec and other artists. The group furthered the techniques and were responsible for etchings and lithographs acceptance into mainstream art. Cassatt was influenced by Japanese prints after seeing an exhibition in Paris in 1890. She combined several new techniques with flattened subjects and decorative elements from the style, to create a hybrid of western modern images with the ancient art form. Other artists followed suit and began exploring the techniques and the style became a major influence for Vincent Van Gogh and Toulouse Lautrec as well.

In past years we covered Degas and Cassatt and will explore the work of Toulouse Lautrec in an upcoming lesson. His pastel drawings and posters are among the most famous works of their type and figure prominently in art history .Lesser known are his pastel portraits For our lesson I selected the portraits of Vincent Van Gogh and Suzanne Valadon to review and also to reconnect with former lessons. (The images are below)

. *Mary Cassatt was the only American included in the group of Impressionists . She was instrumental in introducing Modern Art and Impressionism to America via her friends the Havermeyers. Based on her recommendations, their acquisitions provided the collection for the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in NY.


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