Invention of Pastel Painting, The

Thea Burns

UK Price: £65.00 US Price: $120.00

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ISBN: 9781904982123
Binding: Hardback
Dimensions: 246 x 175 mm
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 53 colour, 11 halftone

Chalks and pastels are particularly appropriate materials for portraits because they appear effortlessly to convey the warm tones and soft, matte velvety surface of skin. Portraits and head studies therefore figure prominently in histories of pastel.

The Invention of Pastel Painting describes the relatively sudden emergence in the later seventeenth century of sets of friable pastel sticks and a new artistic practice of painting in pastel. The author reconsiders the use of natural and fabricated drawing sticks as tools, firmly locating their use in the context of historical function. 'Artistic techniques have a social history; they are signs endowed with cultural meaning by society.'

The visual, documentary and etymological evidence does not support the concept of a narrative history of pastel gradually progressing from a 'simple' original state in the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Jean and Francois Clouet and the Dumonstiers to an increasingly richly coloured and technically complex visual record in the paintings of Robert Nanteuil, Joseph Vivien and Rosalba Carriera, and then continuing to evolve through the nineteenth century.

In considering the history of chalk and pastel, the author argues that the change is aesthetic, not formal, and is grounded in social function and technical response. She has drawn not only on artists' letters and accounts, documents, critical and theoretical writings, and, broadly, the secondary literature, but also on close visual examination and scientific analysis of selected chalk drawings and paintings in pastel, particularly those created between 1500 and 1750.

...a handsome and welcome addition to the excellent library of conservation and art historical literature available from Archetype Publications...The Invention of Pastel Painting is an invaluable reference book for conservators, art historians, connoisseurs, educators, custodians and collectors on all aspects of the medium.
Journal of the Canadian Association for Conservation 33 (2008) 49-50

Thea Burns has produced an exceptional book on an esoteric and seductive subject - the invention and early history of the art of pastel painting. For conservators working on pastels from any period, this volume is an excellent one to read and keep as reference, as it covers the topic with an amount of detail unseen in previous works on the subject...For all interested readers, it is an engaging and informative book which should form part of any serious collection of books on artists' materials and techniques.
Journal of the Institute of Conservation 32(1) (March 2009) 129-131

The Invention of Pastel Painting is the first publication to fully distinguish, characterize, and establish a historical usage of pastels through the study of primary source material and technical examination of selected works from 1500 to 1750 executed in dry friable color...[It] provides a unique contribution to the subject of pastel, one that clearly defines the historic medium and provides a foundation upon which future historical and conservation-related research could be built.
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 49 (2010) 115-117