An Old French Pastel Set
Back in the days when I was searching for my direction as an artist, I began to visit the collection of the Portland Art Museum, which my school at the time, the Museum Art School, was conveniently attached to. Among the pieces that caught my eye were two beautiful pastels by the French master who would become among my favorites in the medium, Léon Augustin L’hermitte.
I trace my interest in the pastel medium back to that very pair of pictures. There is a richness of color, sophistication of composition, and tenderness of touch in his pastels, many painted before nature, that I admire more now than ever, and my one existing color catalog of his works is sadly worn because of this.
With all of this in mind, imagine my recent excitement when a friend called and mentioned a recent acquisition … a pastel set from France, from what appears to be L’hermitte’s own time, the mid-to-late nineteenth century.
The first thing that has surprised me is the size and the beautiful colors. Sharpened, I suppose, by the prior user, they are firm in consistency, rather like a Cont’e crayon. The markings don’t give an indication of an actual manufacturer, just some references in French to two Paris Exhibitions of the century. And my generous friend has allowed me to borrow the set and paint some pictures using it. More on that when I get something worth showing done. A portrait sketch of his wife is already intended.
And that led me to a bit of a quandry…how wise am I to actually use them? It’s a bit like when some scientists found a frozen Mastodon, and then ate it. You get a once-in-a -lifetime experience, but at a price. Thoughts?
Tags: French Pastels