"Young Woman with a Fan," early 1750s, Pietro Antonio Rotari (Italian, 1707-1762), pastel of blue-green paper, mounted on canvas, 46 x 37 cm, Getty Museum, 2019.111

By the mid-18th century, pastel paintings reached an unprecedented peak of popularity and acclaim. The dry, satiny pigments, manufactured in sticks of every hue, were portable and allowed for swift execution—allowing artists to essentially “draw” a painting.

The J. Paul Getty Museum presents “Eighteenth-Century Pastels,” an exhibition that explores the popularity of pastel paintings across eighteenth-century Europe and showcases their striking physical properties. Presenting works from the Getty Museum collection along with four loans, the exhibition is on view at the Getty Center from August 30, 2022 to February 26, 2023.

(Editor’s Note: Watch and interact with 30 world-renowned pastel artists as they demonstrate their skills at Pastel Live, August 18-20. Included is an exclusive faculty art auction. [learn more]

"Portrait of George de Ligne Gregory (1740-1822)," 1793, John Russell (English, 1745-1806), pastel on paper, laid on canvas, 75.9 x 63.2 cm, Getty Museum, 2001.77
“Portrait of George de Ligne Gregory (1740-1822),” 1793, John Russell (English, 1745-1806), pastel on paper, laid on canvas, 75.9 x 63.2 cm, Getty Museum, 2001.77

More from The Getty:

“Working with pastels differs greatly from painting with oils, which require cumbersome equipment, long sittings, and extensive drying times,” says Emily Beeny, curator of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and former associate curator of drawings at the Getty Museum. “Their relative ease and portability made pastels an especially desirable medium for traveling artists seeking to expand their portfolio with portraits.”

Pastelists were often very mobile, traveling far and wide in search of commissions. The artists and sitters represented in “Eighteenth-Century Pastels” hail from Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands—a testament to the Pan-European nature of the pastel phenomenon.

Portrait of Sir James Gray pastel painting by Rosalba Carriera
“Portrait of Sir James Gray, 2nd,” about 1744-1745, Rosalba Carriera (Italian, 1673-1757), pastel on blue paper, 56 x 45.8 cm, Getty Museum, 2009.80

“Eighteenth-Century Pastels” highlights works from the Getty Museum collection by Jean-Étienne Liotard, John Russell, and Rosalba Carriera, among others. The exhibition also includes recently acquired works by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard and Pietro Antonio Rotari, as well as seldom-seen works by Cornelis Troost on long-term loan from the Mauritshuis in the Netherlands.

With standout pieces like Rotari’s “Young Woman with a Fan” and ​​Liotard’s “Portrait of Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone at Seven Years of Age,” the pastel paintings in this exhibition will entrance audiences with their rich hues and ethereal quality.

“Featuring works by many of the most talented pastel portraitists of the age, this exhibition is a sumptuous feast for the eyes,” says Ellie Bernick, graduate intern at the Getty Museum and co-curator of the exhibition. “Plus, the exhibition features several works by female pastelists like Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Rosalba Carriera, and Mary Hoare, exemplifying the important role the medium played in bringing women artists into the profession.”

Portrait of Lady Dungarvan Countess of Ailesbury pastel painting - Mary Hoare
“Portrait of Lady Dungarvan, Countess of Ailesbury (née Susanna Hoare),” about 1760, Attributed to Mary Hoare (English, 1744-1820), pastel on blue paper, mounted on canvas, 61 x 45.7 cm, Getty Museum, 2013.47.2

“Eighteenth-Century Pastels” is curated by Emily Beeny, curator of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and former associate curator of drawings at the Getty Museum and Ellie Bernick, graduate intern at the Getty Museum, with the assistance of Julian Brooks, senior curator of drawings at the Getty Museum.


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