Brightly hued, highly finished, and relatively large in scale,
pastels in the 18th century were regarded as a type of painting and
displayed like oils. The powdery, vibrant crayons are particularly
suited to capturing the skin tones and evanescent expressions that
characterize the most lifelike portraits.
Pastels cannot be permanently displayed because they are
susceptible to fading, and they rarely travel. Until now, there has
never been an exhibition in the U.S. devoted to these intriguing
and important works. "Pastel Portraits," the companion book to an
exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, presents over 40 exquisite
works by French, Italian, English, Swiss, and American artists. It
offers a technical discussion of the materials and explains why
pastels achieved widespread popularity in the 1700s and how the
fabrication of this medium intersected with Enlightenment
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