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36ème Congrès du CIHA - Lyon 2024

Parrainé par le Ministère de la Culture,
le Ministère de l'Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche,
le Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères

The Matter of Pastel

Oliver Wunsch 1, Melissa Hyde 2, Juliette Trey 3

Boston College - Chestnut Hill (United States), 2University Of Florida - Gainesville (United States), 3Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA) - Paris (France)

Sujet en anglais / Topic in english

Fragile and ineffable, the materiality of pastel has been a source of anxious fascination since the medium’s invention. Its subtle colors and matte textures yield inimitable surface effects, but the tenuous adhesion of its pigmented particles to paper have vexed artists and conservators for hundreds of years. The medium’s complex and unstable properties create obstacles for research and loan exhibitions, confining its study to devoted specialists. Yet pastel also provides an ideal object for investigation into issues central to recent methodological reflection on art’s materiality more broadly, such as mobility, technological innovation, and the politics of care.

Pastel has been the subject of conferences and exhibitions in recent years, which have focused on individual artists, regions, or specific facets of the medium. In the past year alone, two exhibitions—“Color into Line” at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and “Vive le Pastel!” at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich—brought scholarly attention to two extensive museum collections of pastel. Other recent initiatives include an exhibition and conference on Jean- Baptiste Perronneau (2017), an exhibition and major publication on the pastels in the Louvre collections (2018), “Pastels in Pieces” at the Getty (2018), and a workshop at the Bibliotheca Hertziana on the “Fragility of Pastel” (2022). Neil Jeffares’s magisterial Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800 and catalogue raisonné on Maurice-Quentin de La Tour (2022) are indispensable online sources. Angela Oberer, meanwhile, published a major new biography of Rosalba Carriera in 2020. Thea Burns and Philippe Saunier’s The Art of Pastel (2015) has further expanded our understanding of pastel, including its use among nineteenth-century artists. A major exhibition at the Petit Palais in 2017 further highlighted the importance of the medium in the nineteenth century, and an upcoming show at the Musée d’Orsay (“Pastels de Millet à Redon”) promises to develop this area of research. In the field of contemporary art, pastel has also generated growing interest through the work of artists such as Nicolas Party. Next year is the 350th anniversary of Rosalba Carriera’s birth, which will be marked by an exhibition of her work in Dresden. Thus a CIHA session on pastel will be timely.

Though pastel is often seen as a quintessentially eighteenth-century medium, this session aims to consider it across geographic borders and time periods.