Published: March 13, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – Through April 14, Wildenstein will hose an exhibition of pastels dating from the Eighteenth, Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries by some of the greatest names in history of French art, among them Jean Marc Nattier, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Elizabeth Louis Vigee Le Brun, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzales, Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard.
The earliest works are lively portrait studies, or preparations, by Quentin de La Tour, whose command of the medium so elevated its status that it came to rival the prestige of oil painting. Pastel, with its ease of application and extreme adaptability, is particularly well suited to capturing fleeting expressions and character.
A number of the outstanding pastellists active in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century France were women. The most famous of them, Vigee Le Brun, is represented by a “Portrait of a Young Woman,” which is a study of the popular genre known as the tête d’expression. The comely subject is depicted in a dark blue Empire dress against a pale blue ground, in a pose of rapturous ecstasy.
Pastel lends itself readily to recording transient effects, which ensured its appeal to the Impressionists, here represented, for example, by Edouard Manet’s ravishing portrait of lady of leisure in her bed (one of the earliest works by the artist to enter an American collection) and Berthe Morisot’s “Before the Bath.” The show ends with a haunting image of Lady Macbeth by Odilon Redon, one of the greatest practitioners of pastel painting. The figure’s rigid pose and haunting stare, as well as the color range restricted to tones of red, all convey the horrific fate of Shakespeare’s tragic queen.
The gallery, at 19 East 64th Street, is open Monday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm. For information, 212/879-0500.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm