PASTEL and the History of the Pastel Society
(Taken from an article by Robin Capon)

Pastel has many attractive qualities for artists, especially the fact that it combines so readily the immediacy of drawing with a rich and painterly colouring potential. Not surprisingly, since its introduction in the 16th century, it has been used by many of the world’s greatest artists, including Chardin, Quentin de Latour, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Mary Cassat. It was a particularly popular medium in France, and this eventually led to the founding of the Société des Pastellistes in 1870. In England, the first exhibition devoted entirely to pastel was held in 1888, and not long after this the first British pastel society was formed – the Society of British Pastellists. However, mainly due to extremely harsh criticism in the press, this society was short-lived.

A decade later, in the autumn of 1898, in the studio of Marion Gemmell, at Lownes Square in London, a group of artists met to discuss the formation of a new society for pastellists, and this became known as the Pastel Society. George Frederick Watts was elected President, with the founding members including such accomplished painters as George Clausen, Hercules Brabazon Brabazon, William Orchardson and William Holman Hunt.

The first exhibition was organized for February 1899 at the galleries of the Royal Institute of Water Colour Painters in Piccadilly. Soon, the annual exhibition began to attract other prominent artists of the time, such as Whistler and Sickert. Interest and confidence in pastel had once again been restored and the medium began to enjoy the status it had known a century earlier.

By 1915 the membership had increased to 87. In 1921 Samuel Melton Fisher was elected president, a post he held for the next 18 years. He worked tirelessly to improve the standing of the society during a difficult period in its development. From 1926 to 1988 the society held a joint annual exhibition with the Pencil Society - a decision which at first proved very unpopular with many leading critics. The two societies amalgamated in 1988.

Unlike many other societies the Pastel Society continued to stage exhibitions during the Second World War, showing at the Guildhall Gallery and a number of provincial venues after the RI Galleries had been damaged by bombing. Later, exhibitions returned to the RI Galleries, but when the lease expired in 1970 the society joined the Federation of British Artists at the Mall Galleries, which has since remained the venue for the annual exhibition.

The present standing and popularity of pastel owes much to the exciting and varied work of the members of the Pastel Society and, of course, to the direction and enthusiasm of its different presidents over the years. The current president is Cheryl Culver RBA. As well as the annual exhibition, which remains the highlight of the year’s events, the society organises tutorial workshops, demonstrations and lectures in different parts of the country to promote the medium. It continues to play an important and influential role in the contemporary art scene.

'PASTEL' a short article by Leigh Parry Past President.

PASTEL is dry, durable and as permanent as the paper, board or other support to which it is applied so long as the surface of the painting is not rubbed or allowed to get damp. If not protected under glass in a frame, pastels may be stored quite safely between sheets of folded paper secured so that the work does not slide about. Their durability is exemplified by the fact that the earliest exponents of this art lived about 30,000 BC and the work of these cave dwellers has lasted until today. They had white chalk, various earth colours, e.g. red and yellow, black from charring in the fire and the cave wall to work on. Present day pastels, highly refined and rigorously tested are claimed to have an almost limitless shelf life. These soft pastels may be applied in light strokes or heavily and then rubbed into coloured paper or white paper tinted with a watercolour wash. They marry with charcoal, coloured conte crayons and even ink for preliminary drawings, but not over graphite pencil lines.

This medium gives unlimited scope to all varieties of thinking and methods of execution in present day art. Many are the examples and many the styles possible with this versatile medium, as may be seen by such masters of the past from the precise portrait drawings of Holbein, through the silky impastos of Manet to the vigorous and apparent abandon of stokes and rubbings of Degas - but with what breath-taking precision is the abandon! That the freshness of the medium lasts may be seen also for example in the work of Maurice de la Tour 1704 - 1788 e.g. the glowing portrait of Mr Henry Dawkins in the National Gallery, apparently as fresh as the day it was painted. 

The Pastel Society in its present form was instituted in 1898. There were seventy-seven members, among them such well-known names as H. B. Brabazon, George Clausen RA, W. Q. Orchardson RA, Solomon J. Solomon and the founder G. F. Watts RA in the list of original members. The Society joined the Federation of British Artists at the Mall Galleries in 1970.

Featured Artist

Matthew Draper
Draper Matthew Illuminated A View of Tantallon castle with The Bass Rock Homage to Alexander Naysmith

 ' Illuminated - A View of Tantallon Castle with the Bass Rock - Homage to Alexander Naysmith '
by
Matthew Draper

 

Matthew Draper PS

Education/Career

1973  Born Stone Staffordshire
1991-1992  Walsall College of Art
1992-1995  Falmouth College of Art

Artist’s Statement

I identify myself principally as a draughtsman; drawing being the most unencumbered and immediate form of image-making. My work is made with an intense and energetic immediacy, working instinctively rather than methodically, keeping me physically and emotionally involved in the process. I crush soft pastel in my hands rubbing the dust into the paper in wide sweeps of colour gradually manipulating the material to build up a thick layered surface using the ball of my thumb or the heel of my hand.
I am interested in and influenced by the dramatic imagery of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century painting. I admire the idea of the contemplation of landscape in the Romantic spirit, found in the work of the German Romantics like Casper David Frederick and the notion of the grandeur of the landscape as expressed in the work of the American Subliminal Painters like Sanford Robinson Gifford and Frederick Edwin Church. These artists adopted the term ‘Luminism’, defined as light in the landscape and the effect that light has on the landscape and objects within it.
As a contemporary artist choosing to adopt this approach to light in the landscape, my interest is not to make straight forward topographical images that are illustrations of place. Instead I am attempting to make imagery that is descriptive of the circumstances under which the subject is viewed; images which convey a sense of place. The drawings are emotional reactions to events and experiences evolving in front of me; events happening or about to happen. The images become like fading memories or captured moments in time. The making of the work is in itself a set of actions and events which creates a harmony between my process and my interpretation of the subject.

Societies:

Member – The Pastel Society.

Awards:

2011  Visitors Choice Award, National Art Open Exhibition, Chichester.
2011  Regional Prize, National Open Art Exhibition, Chichester.
2011  Elected Member of the Pastel Society UK, Federation of British Artists, Mall Galleries, London.
2010  City of Glasgow Prize, Royal Glasgow Institute of the fine Arts.
2010  Connell and Connell prize, Scottish Society of Artists, Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.
2008  Shell Premium Award, Aberdeen Artists, Aberdeen Museum and Art Gallery.
2007  Chairman’s Purchase Prize, Discerning Eye Exhibition, London.
2004  Most popular work in the exhibition, Hunting Art Prizes.
2000  Alexander Graham Munro Travel Award, Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour.

Collections:

Bank of Scotland
City of Edinburgh, City Art Centre, Jean F Watson Bequest Fund.
Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery, Kelvin Grove Glasgow.
Paintings in Hospitals Scotland.

Selected Solo Exhibitions:

2013  ‘Northern Light’ Lemon Street Gallery, Truro.
2012  'Time Lapses' Open Eye Gallery Edinburgh
2011  ‘New Pastels’ Beaux Arts, Bath.
2010  ‘Festival Exhibition’ Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh.
2009  ‘In Series’ Lemon Street Gallery, Truro.
2008  ‘Luminism’ Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh.
2006  ‘Time and Place’ Beaux Arts, Bath.
2005  ‘Nostalgia’ Lemon Street Gallery, Truro.
2000  ‘Night Life’ The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh.

Selected Group Exhibitions:

2008  Aberdeen Artists, Aberdeen Museum and Art Gallery.
2007  Discerning Eye Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London.
2007  Salon 2007, ‘New British Paintings and Works on Paper’ Portobello Road, London.   
2006  ‘Roter Salon’ Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.
2006  The Jerwood Drawing Prize, Jerwood Space, London and touring of the UK.
2006  ‘Best of British’ Chelsea Art Gallery, Palo Alto, California.
2002  The Hunting Art Prizes, Royal College of Art, London.
2004  The Hunting Art Prizes, Royal College of Art, London.
1999  Cheltenham Open Drawing Exhibition, touring to:
          The European Drawing Collection Hull, Karl Hofer Gesellschaft,
          The Western Banhof Charlottenburgh, Berlin.

Contact Details:

Website Address: www.matthewjdraper.co.uk
E-mail: matt.draper1@hotmail.co.uk

 

     


Copyright © 2015 The Pastel Society