Famous Artists Who Used Oil Pastels

Famous Artists Who Used Oil Pastels

Pastel's Origins

This flexible artistic medium has a long history dating back to the Renaissance. It is thought to have developed in Northern Italy during the 16th century, and it became a favorite of the masters, including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who sketched with pastel chalks. Ironically, artists of the time had just a few basic colors in their color scheme, white, and red—but nowadays, there are over 1,600 colors to choose from! The pastel stick gained a lot of popularity in the 18th century, especially in England and France.

It was fashionable at the time to have your portrait painted with a mixture of pastel and gouache paint. However, because it was generally linked with the Ancien RĂ©gime's frivolity, the medium fell in popularity both after and during Revolution (early 19th century) in France. Its popularity in the United Kingdom began to diminish about the same time. As the 1800s progressed, pastels reclaimed their status among artists.

Oil pastel has played a significant role in the methods of many artists, whether it is employed to sketch preparatory art studies or to create flawless art paintings. Here, we look at how some of the world's most well-known painters have used the adaptable medium throughout history, as well as how they have influenced the art world as we know it today.


Who is the pastel master of the twenty-first century?

Edgar Degas is one of the most famous pastel artists in the world. 

Pastels' Characteristics

Pastel is a bar that contains pure powdered pigment and a binder. It's essentially the same color that's utilized in all types of painting. It resembles a combination between a piece of chalk and a crayon in form. They're held in the same way as a pencil, crayon, or paintbrush would be. Hard pastels, soft pastels, pastel pencils, and oil pastels are the four types of pastels.

Famous Pastel Artists

Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas was born in 1834 and went on to have a long career as a French artist. Degas is best renowned for his pastel drawings, oil paintings of female dancers, and humanistic themes of loneliness, though he experimented with a range of media and themes.

In otherwise gregarious circumstances, his people are frequently represented gazing away or seeming quiet, lost in meditation. Despite being considered a foundational artist of Impressionism, he characterized his art as realism. Degas also produced prints and bronze sculptures in addition to his drawings and paintings (many also of dancers).

Degas was a well-known anti-Semite who become more open in his convictions as he grew older. When he died in 1917, he had no formal students and few friends. Nonetheless, his work continues to have an impact on a number of other notable European artists, just as it did throughout his lifetime.


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, together with Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin, is one of the most well-known artists of Europe's Post-Impressionist era. The artist's early years were not happy, as he was born in 1864 to a French aristocratic family.

Following his brother's death, his parents divorced, and he struggled with health concerns throughout his adolescence, culminating in his legs failing to grow in his early teens (likely due to a genetic disorder).

As a result, the youthful Toulouse-Lautrec devoted himself to painting. In 1882, he came to Paris to study portraiture and was soon lured into the Bohemian counter-culture scene. While his troubles with alcoholism took a toll, his ordered posters for local saloons and paintings of local life garnered him widespread acclaim. He died in 1901 at the age of 36, but his pastel paintings, which he created throughout his brief career, are still popular and influential today.


Eugène Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix, a French artist, was born Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix in 1978 and is most known for spearheading the French Romantic movement of the nineteenth century. Delacroix became interested in Romanticism after receiving his artistic training in Paris in his teenage years and started painting works influenced by history, poetry, and literature.

He's also noted for his constant use of violent and sensual themes, yet his subjects varied from human civilization to nature. Delacroix's 1832 trips to Spain and North Africa inspired his art, even more, introducing exotic settings as well as different cultures and histories into his work.

Delacroix's work was renowned among the general population and was highly regarded by numerous foreign art authorities throughout his career. However, it was frequently slammed in French political circles. Delacroix helped form the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts a year before his death in 1862. (the National Society of Fine Arts). Delacroix painted multiple pastel paintings of Jesus, including some of his most well-known works.

Jean-Francois Millet

While many of his contemporaries painted urban landscapes and portraits of city residents, Jean-Francois Millet took a different approach. Millet, who was born in 1814 to French farmers, grew up assisting his father in the fields and later included agricultural themes in his paintings.

He began his artistic career as a portrait painter, although he was only somewhat successful. In 1847, he made his breakthrough with the more ambitious and critically praised Oedipus Taken Down from the Tree. Harvester, a project for the French government, was completed in 1849, and it inspired Millet to explore additional farm scenes and rural settings.

This was followed by a slew of widely praised and financially successful titles. Despite his great success all through the rest of his life, Millet fought with health issues and died in 1875. Vincent Van Gogh considered him as a valuable source of inspiration.

Joseph Vivien

In his teens, Joseph Vivien had the chance to study art in Paris with François Bonnemer, a well-known painter. He was able to paint a picture of Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria in Brussels in 1699, and he remained in Munich for a time. Later, he returned to Paris, where he worked with well-known figures in Cologne, Münster, and Bonn.

He was a true pastel painting pioneer, and his pastel paintings were in high demand during his lifetime. He was recognized by delegates and admitted into art academies. The picture of the Bavarian Elector Max Emanuel from 1706 is among the most famous pastel paintings.


Mary Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt was an Impressionist painter and printmaker who lived and worked in France for the majority of her career. She was born in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, in 1844, unlike the majority of her peers.

Despite her family's opposition to her artistic ambitions, Cassatt enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (in Philadelphia) when she was in her teens. However, she became dissatisfied with the shortage of resources and possibilities for female students and dropped out in 1865 to relocate to Paris. She perfected her skills as a painter of female subjects and their personal life there.

She rose to prominence as a leading role in the Impressionist movement and was frequently compared to her close friend Edgar Degas, however, the two ultimately feuded over Degas' anti-Semitic sentiments. Cassatt was an outspoken feminist and advocated for equal rights throughout her life. Due to poor eyesight, she ceased painting in 1914 and died in 1926.

Rosalba Carriera

Rosalba Carriera lived from 1674 to 1757, and her skill was noticed and nurtured by her father from an early age. She developed her artistic expression while studying at the Accademia di San Luca and afterward with Antonio Balestra in Venice.

She began painting with oil paint until Christian Cole, a painter, urged her to switch to pastel pencils. Mary, Christ, and mythological figures were her main subjects. She established herself as a soft pastel artist and was a popular guest at many European courts at the time.

Rosalba Carriera became blind in 1746 as a result of a long eye disease, effectively ending her career as a painter. Her Rococo-influenced painting style was distinct, characterized by grace and excellent color softness.

Pierre-August Renoir

It's difficult to discuss Impressionism without bringing up Pierre-August Renoir. Renoir, who was born in 1841, began his artistic career as a ceramics painter's apprentice. He went on to struggle as a painter for years, trying out several classical techniques but quickly becoming bored.

Then, in 1874, he collaborated with a group of other artists to stage the first Impressionist exhibition, wherein he presented six of his own works. While the exhibition as a whole received mostly unfavorable reviews, Renoir's paintings were acclaimed.

At the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, he received even more popularity, while also assisting in the widespread recognition of Impressionist ideas as a whole. Renoir continued to paint until his death in 1919, and his work was even featured in the Louvre in his final year. Renoir's works have inspired many decades of painters with their brilliant, rich colors and frank portrayals of human figures.

Top 10 Most Famous Paintings by Pierre Auguste Renoir

Pablo Picasso

Even among non-artistic groups, the name "Pablo Picasso" and his Surrealist works are still well-known. But the life of the hugely influential Spanish artist went much beyond that. Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Mara de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santsima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso was born in 1881 and is credited for displaying exceptional artistic aptitude from an early age.

Throughout the early twentieth century, he changed his approach to the point where his work is divided into five periods: The Blue Period, The African-influenced Period, Analytic Cubism, and Synthetic Cubism. All of these phases, when paired with Picasso's neoclassical and Surrealist works from the 1920s and onwards, cemented his status as a global figure. He died in 1973, at the age of 91, after spending the majority of his life in France.

William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase, a well-known visual artist, created the Society of American Painters in Pastel in 1882, which also included painters like John Henry Twachtman, Childe Hassam, and Robert Reid. The Society only lasted eight years and staged four exhibitions during that time. It did, however, draw attention to pastel and help it achieve acceptance as a medium.

Chase worked in oil, pastel, watercolor, and etching, among other media. His pastel drawings, which could reach six feet in height and were done on canvas, were occasionally rather big.

Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam, an illustrator by profession, was one of the most prominent American Impressionists of the late 1800s and early 1900s. He has been one of the most well-known pastelists in the United States. In 1890, he participated in the Society of Painters in Pastel's fourth and final show in New York.

Painting in this medium, he portrayed the metropolitan cityscape, summer gardens, and abstracted night skies.


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