Art media

Why use pastel, part 14

Thoughts on Various Art Media: Why Use Pastel, Part 14

Summary from DaVinci to Holbein

Some time ago we began an exploration of two-dimensional art media – oil, acrylic, watercolor, and a lengthy study of lesser-known pastel media. It was set aside to explore “An Artist’s Life”. Now let’s go ahead and start with a review: The pigments used in pastels are the same used to produce all colored art media, including oil paintings, although with pastels, the binder – gum arabic – is of a neutral color and low saturation. The color effect of pastels is closer to natural dry pigments than that of any other process. Pastels offer a wide range of dry pigment colors that can be mixed like with liquid paint pigments but applied like a pencil. Due to their versatility, once available, pastels quickly found their place in the artist’s toolbox.

The origins of pastels as an artistic medium in their own right can be traced back to northern Italy during the Renaissance and include Leonardo da Vinci’s experimentation with this medium in the early 1500s, and soon after, two Italian artists have introduced pastels to the general public as well as as a medium for preparation. studies. In two articles, we examined the work of two excellent and relatively unknown Tuscan artists – Jacopo Bassano and Frederico Barocci – whose work centered on biblical stories as a result of the politics of the Counter-Reformation movement in Italy. From the 1570s Bassano was considered a collector’s item in the Venetian market and Jacopo became the head of a very famous family workshop made up of his four sons. Few of Bassano’s pastel drawings have a clear provenance (attributable to him), but his distinctive, direct and pictorial style echoed the way he handled painting on canvas. The painting and drawing of the Flagellation are characteristic of his mature style. Federico Barocci, an inhabitant of Urbino, had a style that reflected the influence of Raphael’s serene images of holiness, though his works remain uniquely his, expressing his intense devotional purity that matched well with the movement of the Counter-Reformation.

Leonardo da Vinci, study.
Frederico Barocci, Nativity, Study of the Head of the Infant.
Jacopo Bassano, Study of the Scouring Soldier and Head of Christ.

DaVinci first heard of pastels from the French artist Jean Perréal who arrived in Milan in 1499. First made in the early 15th century, pastels were initially used as the basis for works or preliminary sketches. Apart from the Italian pastellists Barrocci and Bassano, the German artist Hans Holbein the Younger and the French artists Jean and François Clouet produced pastel portraits during the same period.

First, let’s review the two famous artists of the French Renaissance court: Jean (ca. 1485-ca. 1541) and François (ca. 1516-ca. 1572) Clouet. The Clouets, father and son, specialized in elegantly composed aristocratic portraits. Their medium was paint, and colored chalk, aka pastel drawing, was frequently used in preliminary studies. Jean Clouet née Cloet, originally from Brussels, was a painter to the court of King François Ier. Upon his death in 1541, François assumed the post of court painter to his father, a post he retained under Henry II, François II and Charles IX. The presence of Jean at the court of France is recognized for the first time in 1516, the year of the birth of his son François, and in 1523, Jean occupied the post of valet de chambre (or valet) with an annual allowance, a way of making his role as a court painter a reality. . In 1529, the Clouet family lived in Paris. Jean’s drawings, many of which still exist in various collections, clearly indicate his talent as a portrait painter. The association of a drawing in colored chalk and a painted portrait of Marguerite d’Angoulême, sister of François I, has been attributed to Jean. His talent as a portrait painter is evident in both drawing and painting.

Jean Clouet, preliminary drawing by Catherine de Medici.

François Clouet learned his art alongside his father at court. The first mention of Clouet fils was when he received the rights to his father’s inheritance by a special grant from the crown in December 1541. He too was a valet and court artist. The provenance of his works, drawings and paintings is generally more certain. The works of François Clouet were much celebrated in his time and tributes continued for decades. While some question their provenance, many portraits and preliminary drawings relating to them are attributed to Francis, including his masterpiece, the Portrait of Elisabeth of Austria found in the Louvre. Her work is beautifully finished, perfectly rendered with wonderful precision and finesse, and gives a wonderful glimpse into her model’s character. It was fascinating to delve into the history of French pastellists in the French Renaissance and, as an artist, to see that drawing skills are timeless. A good work of art has certain universal values.

Elizabeth of Austria, c.  1571, painting.
Elizabeth of Austria, c.  1571, colored chalk drawing.

François Clouet learned his art alongside his father at court. The first mention of Clouet fils was when he received the rights to his father’s inheritance by a special grant from the crown in December 1541. He too was a valet and court artist. The provenance of his works, drawings and paintings is generally more certain. The works of François Clouet were much celebrated in his time and tributes continued for decades. While some question their provenance, many portraits and preliminary drawings relating to them are attributed to Francis, including his masterpiece, the Portrait of Elisabeth of Austria found in the Louvre. Her work is beautifully finished, perfectly rendered with wonderful precision and finesse, and gives a wonderful glimpse into her model’s character. It was fascinating to delve into the history of French pastellists in the French Renaissance and, as an artist, to see that drawing skills are timeless. A good work of art has certain universal values.

Now, more on the history of other famous pastellists – the Holbeins:

Heir to the German line-drawing tradition and the precise drawing preparation developed by his father, Hans Holbein the Elder, Hans Holbein the Younger was the accomplished portrait painter of the Northern Renaissance style. Holbein the Elder, born in Augsburg to a family of famous painters, was known for his talents as a draftsman. His chalk and ink portraits, which, like those of other recently mentioned artists, are often all that remains of the works of the Elder. His style is considered emblematic of the late Gothic style. So, just as Hans Senior learned from his father, Senior’s two sons became artists and printmakers: Ambrosius Holbein (c. 1494 – c. 1519) and Hans Holbein the Younger (c. 1497 – 1543).

Henry VIII and Henry VII, by Hans Holbein.

Next time Carriera and Rococo Era.

Janet Cornacchio is a member of the Front Street Art Gallery, president of the Scituate Arts Association and a real estate agent. You can contact her at [email protected]