Beyond the Pale
“Femme Étendue sur un Divan” (1899), by Victor Prouvé. © Petit Palais/Roger-Viollet
The exhibition “The Art of the Pastel: From Degas to Redon“ (through April at the Petit Palais) is an image booster for a medium often seen as a poor cousin of painting, something artists use when they can’t paint for some reason, a stopgap between drawing and painting.
By presenting a wide variety of pastels in every conceivable style, the show puts paid to all those preconceptions about the little sticks made of powdered pigments held together with a binder. The fact remains, however, that for various reasons they are difficult to work with and to conserve, which is probably the real explanation for their relative rarity.
Pastels made their first appearance during the Renaissance but experienced their first golden age in the 18th century, when they were popular for portrait painting. Another heyday arrived in the second half of the 19th century, when societies for pastel artists sprang up and such illustrious artists as Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas began to use them extensively.
The show at the Petit Palais concentrates on the rarely seen pastels in its own collection, mostly dating from the second half of the 19th century. Of the 130 pieces on show, many have never been exhibited before.
Avenue Winston Churchill