pastel (păstĕlˈ) [key], artists' medium of chalk and pigment, tempered with weak gum water and usually molded in the form of sticks; also a work done in this medium. Pastel was in use in Italy in the 15th cent. and is doubtless much older. It was introduced into 18th-century France by the Venetian artist Rosalba Carriera. The medium was then used by such masters as Maurice Quentin de La Tour and Vigée-Lebrun, and in the 19th cent. by Degas, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, and Cassatt. In the 20th cent. Matisse was a master of pastel. Pastels are often classified as paintings, although the medium lends itself to the more direct and spontaneous approach of drawing.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.