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(păstĕl`), artists' medium of chalk and pigment, tempered with weak gum water and usually molded in the form of sticks; also a work done in this medium. Pastel was in use in Italy in the 15th cent. and is doubtless much older. It was introduced into 18th-century France by the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. The medium was then used by such masters as Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Vigée-Lebrun, and in the 19th cent. by Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, and Cassatt. In the 20th cent. Matisse was a master of pastel. Pastels are often classified as paintings, although the medium lends itself to the more direct and spontaneous approach of drawing.



(1) The technique of painting in dry colors. Soft sticks are made from finely powdered pigments to which are added small amounts of gum (gum arabic, tragacanth), grout, and sometimes chalk, gypsum, or talc.

(2) A work of art executed in pastel. Pastel sticks are used primarily on rough paper (most often colored), cardboard, treated canvas, chamois, and parchment. The extensive use of hatching in pastel makes the medium similar to graphic art. The pure, luminous colors retain their original freshness and brilliance, and the surface retains a soft, velvety, mat texture. Pastel drawings are sometimes sprayed with a fixative, such as a solution of gum.

It is thought that pastel originated in the second half of the 15th century, when interest in multicolored drawing first arose (J. Fouquet in France). The term pastello first appeared in a late-16th-century treatise by the mannerist theorist G. P. Lomazzo. Pastelists of the 16th and 17th centuries barely went beyond the bounds of traditional drawing (G. A. Boltraffio, B. Luini, L. Carracci, and G. Reni in Italy; H. Holbein the Younger in Germany; J. Goltzius in Holland; and P. Dumonstier and N. Lagneau in France).

In the late 17th century, more painterly tendencies appeared in pastel. In France, J. Vivien used the technique to produce works that were more like paintings than drawings. Pastel developed most fully in the 18th century. Its subtlety, refinement, and soft decorativeness appealed to many artists, including R. Camera in Italy; M. Q. de La Tour, J. B. Chardin, and J. B. Perroneau in France; A. R. Mengs in Germany, and J. E. Liotard in Switzerland.

Pastel was rejected by the neoclassicists precisely for its delicacy, subtlety, and lack of linear tension. Artists working in pastel after roughly 1830 included E. Delacroix, J. F. Millet, E. Manet, A. Renoir, O. Redon, and E. Degas in France. It was Degas who discovered the strong line, vibrant colors, and rich textures possible in pastel. Also working in the medium during this period were M. Liebermann in Germany; A. O. Orlovskii, A. G. Venetsianov, I. I. Levitan, and V. A. Serov in Russia; and M. K. čiurlionis in Lithuania. In the 20th century, P. Bonnard and E. Vuillard of France, M. Cassatt of the USA, H. van de Velde of the Netherlands, and other artists turned to pastel. Soviet artists working in the medium include S. V. Maliutin, E. A. Katsman, V. V. Lebedev, N. A. Tyrsa, and the Kukryniksy group.


Kiplik, D. I. Tekhnika zhivopisi. [6th ed.] Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.
Brieger, L. Das Pastell. Berlin [1921].
Hahn, R. Pastellmalerei: Einführung in die Technik, 4th ed. Ravensburg, [1948],
Robert, K. Le Pastel. Paris, 1951.



A chalk or crayon made of a finely ground pigment and a minimum of nongreasy binder, such as gum tragacanth or methylcellulose; since pastels are blended on the painting itself, a larger assortment of shades and tints is required than with oil or other color mediums.


a. a substance made of ground pigment bound with gum, used for making sticks for drawing
b. a crayon of this
c. a drawing done in such crayons
2. the medium or technique of pastel drawing
3. a pale delicate colour
4. a light prose work, esp a poetic one
5. (of a colour) pale; delicate
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