Pastel does not at all refer to pale colors, as the word is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion terminology. The name pastel comes from the French word "pastiche" because the pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste, with a small amount of gum binder, and then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colors in the pastel palette range from soft and subtle to bold and brilliant. It is not colored chalk, which is a limestone substance. It is pure pigment-the same pigment used in making all fine art paints. It is the most permanent of all media when applied to a permanent ground and properly framed. There is no oil to cause darkening or cracking, nor other substance or medium to cause fading or blistering. Pastels from the 16th Century exist today, as fresh and alive as the day they were painted.
The manufacture of pastels originated in the 15th century. The pastel medium was mentioned by Leonardo da Vinci, and it was sometimes used as a medium for preparatory studies by 16th-century artists . During the 18th century the medium became fashionable for portrait painting, Many famous artists... Chardin, Watteau, Copley, Delacroix, Millet, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Latrec, Vuillard, Bonnard, Glackens, Whistler, Hassam, William Merritt Chase, Mary Cassett, just to list the more familiar names, used pastel as finished work and not just preliminary sketches. The 19th-century French painter Edgar Degas was a most prolific user of pastel and its champion.
An artwork is created by stroking the sticks of dry pigment across an abrasive ground, embedding the color in the "tooth" of the paper, sandboard or canvas. If the ground is completely covered with pastel, the work is considered a pastel painting; leaving much of the ground exposed produces a pastel sketch. Techniques vary with individual artists. Pastel can be blended or used with visible strokes. Many artists favor the medium because it allows a spontaneous approach. There is no drying time, and no allowances to be made for a change in color due to drying.
Care of Pastel Paintings
As with any fine work of art, photography or fine furniture, or photography it is advised not to place a pastel painting in direct sunlight. When under glass, the heat of the sun can create humidity, which could cause moisture damage to develop. Whenever transported or not in a hanging position, a pastel painting should always be face up.