Philippe Saunier, now chief curator at the Direction Générale du Patrimoine in the French Ministry of Culture, was formerly a curator at the Musée d’Orsay, where he oversaw the collection of pastels.
The only comprehensive history of pastel art, beautifully illustrated with works both celebrated and little known
The Art of the Pastel traces the evolution of this most appealing medium from the fifteenth to the early twentieth century—from its humble origins as a tool for sketching to the height of its popularity in Rococo portraiture, and its embrace by the Impressionists and Symbolists. Authors Thea Burns and Philippe Saunier, both leading experts on the subject, shed new light on the acknowledged masters of the pastel, such as Maurice Quentin de la Tour and Jean-Etienne Liotard, who used these magical sticks of color to capture the character of their sitters; Edgar Degas and Mary Cassat, who used them to reveal the unexpected beauties of the everyday; and Odilon Redon, who used them to explore the inner mysteries of the spirit. But Burns and Saunier consider the pastel work of many other artists as well, from forgotten—yet pleasing—society portraitists to such important names as Delacroix, Whistler, and Picasso.
As a rare achievement, their graceful yet authoritative text is matched by the color plates in this volume, which reproduce the harmoniously blended hues of more than 330 choice pastels, from collections around the world. For reasons of conservation, most of these works are exhibited only rarely, and then only in low light. Now they can be admired all together, without interruption, in this museum between two covers.
A delight for the eyes as well as an important work of art history, The Art of the Pastel will be eagerly welcomed by artists, scholars, and art lovers alike.