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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » November 3, 2015
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Masters of the Pastel
November 3, 2015   
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An exhibition devoted to the pastel—a refined, visually attractive and at the same time demanding artistic technique—opens Oct. 29 at the National Museum in Warsaw. The exhibition will include 250 pastels from the museum’s collection which—owing to their delicate nature and susceptibility to damage—are not loaned or exhibited on a permanent basis. The works on show will include pastels by masters of this technique such as Stanisław Wyspiański, Teodor Axentowicz, Leon Wyczółkowski and Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz (known as Witkacy).

This three-month exhibition will be the first display of pastels of such magnitude in Poland and, at the same time, an opportunity to discover a part of the National Museum’s collection that is usually not on view.

The first references to “dry coloring” are found in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci from the turn of the 16th century. However, the full benefits of using this technique, the precursor of modern pastels, were not appreciated until two centuries later, when it was most often employed in portrait painting. Its popularity in the early 18th century was mainly due to the easy manner of working with pastels, the decidedly shorter posing time for models and no changes to the colors of created works. Over time, the pastel became so established that it even endangered the dominance of oil painting, as evidenced by a special tax imposed in France in 1747, aimed predominantly at pastel portrait painters.

The display at the National Museum in Warsaw will depict the history of the pastel, from its beginnings in the 16th century to the first half of the 20th century, highlighting the role of this medium in Polish art history.

The exhibition will also showcase a set of pastels by exceptional European artists, including Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, Jean-Francois Millet and Max Liebermann.

Numerous lectures and meetings accompanying the exhibition will allow visitors to find out more about the pastel’s history and about the most outstanding Polish and European masters of this technique. Meanwhile, workshops will enable participants to discover the secrets of creating pastel paintings themselves.

Masters of the Pastel
National Museum in Warsaw; 3 Jerozolimskie Ave.
Oct. 29-Jan. 31
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