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West European Pastels of the 16th - 19th Centuries in the Hermitage
27 February, 2003 - 4 May, 2003

In the New Hermitage Hall of Twelve Columns (Room No. 244) are displayed 54 French, German, Swedish and Italian pastels.
16th century works open the exhibition. Artists used pastel crayons to color their sketches or create studies for big canvases, such as the studies by Federico Barocci (1535-1612) displayed in the exhibit.

The type of "three crayons portrait" made from life with the use of black crayon, sanguine and pastel crayon at one or two sittings arose in France. Special attention was paid to the head and face. The works by Daniel Dumoustier (1574-1646) and Claude Mellane (1598-1688) who created entire galleries of their contemporaries’ portraits are examples of just such drawings. They may be called predecessors of pastel as an independent art.

In the second half of the 17th century pastel from auxiliary means was growing into an autonomous genre, along with painting. At the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, the ideal in pastel were official portrait compositions apparently resembling oil works.
Golden age of pastel is associated with the name of Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757) and the nascent art of rococo. Portraits and heads of women and children painted by this artist are free from heroic pathos, didacticism or rhetoric. Her influence was operative on many artists such as the Swede Gustav Lundberg (1695-1786) or the major English pastel theoretician and practitioner John Russel (1745-1806). Carriera’s art had a technical effect on the evolution of women portraits whose style was to some extent assimilated and developed by many masters of the middle 18th century including such virtuoso as Francois Boucher. His Girl with Rose and Dream are showed in the exhibition.

The 18th century is represented by many styles and national schools. Romantic marines by French Pierre Jacques Volert (1676-1765) are displayed alongside small landscapes by Flemish Theobald Michault (1676-1765) and portraits by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), Balthasar Denner (1685-1749), Anna Dorothea Therbusch-Lisiewska (1721-1782), Vogel von Vogelstein (1788-1868) and Joseph Petitot (1771 - after 1800).
The French Revolution of 1789 chimed farewell to the golden age of pastel in France and other countries. The late 18th - first half of the 19th centuries witnessed an influx of foreign pastel masters into Russia, mostly from Germany. The professional artists Johann Bardoux and his younger relative Karl Wilhelm Bardoux (1770s - after 1842), Johann Heinrich Schmidt (1749-1829), Alessandro Molinari (1772-1831) and others whose names are not preserved mostly created portraits of Russian nobles from St. Petersburg and provinces. Their works are displayed in a special section of the exhibition, Rossica.

The 19th century masters contributed new techniques to the art of pastel. Some had a predilection for the graphic manner with distinct strokes, lines and contours and preferred sketch qualities, like Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904). Others went for the smooth painting techniques of salon art, like French Hippolyte Robillard (early 19th century - after 1875) with his pastel portraits. Artists of various schools created pastels. Mysterious ideas of Symbolists find their adequate expression in the works by Odilon Redon (1840-1916). In the last third of the 19th century experiments with color had an impact on drawing resulting in the growing popularity of pastel and the technical exchange between arts.

The works by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) whose art played a key role in the renaissance of pastel close the show chronologically.

A Woman Combing Her Hair
Edgar Degas
Larger view

After the Bath
Edgar Degas
Larger view

Portrait of a Girl in a Cap
John Russel
Larger view

The Children's Head in a Structure
Carriera Rosalba
Larger view


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