Friday, April 19, 2013

Regency Pastels

I've just had Pax do a portrait with charcoal, ink and pastels.
Him being an artist of sorts.

So I have all this spare information about pastels floating around in my head, 
and I wrote a posting over at the Wenches for anyone who wants a very brief look at art materials of the Regency.

I found it all interesting myself.
A-drawing-lad_nicolas-bernard C18
He's using a brass pastel holder.
Regency visual artists were about half way along the technological journey between the Neolithic Cave painters and one of those high-tech computer painting programs.  The fine work, the beautiful work, the Regency artists created was accomplished with the most simple tools and a limited array of colors.
Let me talk about pastels, because Pax uses pastels.  I think of pastel as a portable and democratic art form in Georgian and Regency times.   If you are a spy pretending to be an artist, or vice versa, you would carry a sketchbook and maybe pastels because they're fast to use and cheap.
And, like, portable.

Portraits in these readymade crayons offered tangible advantages over oil for the artist and the sitter: they required fewer sittings as there was no drying time; less paraphernalia; the materials were easily portable and the costs were lower.
      The Rise of Pastel in the Eighteenth Century, Margery Shelley

Just a whole bunch of pastels.  From the Met

These pastels were made by grinding natural white chalk -- something you can pick up off the ground in places like Southeast England -- into a fine powder. You mixed this with pigment and a binder like gum arabic.  You rolled the mixture into thin cylindrical sticks or long square sticks and dried them.  These were 'soft pastels'.  They were just super concentrated colors that transferred readily to the paper.

They called pastels 'crayons' in the Regency -- so confusing -- because the waxy colored sticks we think of as 'crayons' wouldn't be invented for another century.

 The most exciting recent innovation for our Regency pastel artist would have been the Conté crayon,  invented in France in 1794.  These were made from kaolin clay and graphite and fired in a kiln.  They were much harder than the chalk-based soft pastel sticks, and came in a smaller range of colors.  They could be sharpened.  They were good for tight, crisp lines and fine detail, and often used to lay down the first sketch on paper.  
A-drawing-lad_nicolas-bernard C18 detail
Detail of picture above
You had a potential for vivid color, but in a medium likely to crumble and come apart in your hand and smear.  So the pastel sticks were fitted into a sort of metal holder that protected them and provided control and precision for the artist.

Conte crayon holder antique
A holder for Conté pastels, about 6 inches long, brass

Because pastels were intended to be inserted into a holder, they were thinner than the ones we use today.  A square shape gave them stability in the holder. That's why the Conté pastels are square.
Conté_crayons wiki 

 Find the rest of this posting at Word Wenches, here.

No comments:

Post a Comment