Friday, 21 May 2010

Degas’ pastel secret

Ambroise Vollard, in his book “Recollections of a Picture Dealer", told a story about his visits to Degas’ studio where the artist was working on one of his pastels, “these marvels of colours that some compared to the mottled wings of butterflies”.

Au Café-concert : La Chanson du chien (55 × 45 cm) – Source: Wikimedia

The painter La Touche asked the art dealer if he could find out where Degas was buying his pastels, from which he could get such extraordinary colours.

Here is the dialogue Vollard reported:

“When I saw Degas again, he had in hand some pastels that he was lining-up on a board in front of his window.

- I make the colours fade as much as possible, he said, by placing them in the sun.

- But, if so, with what do you manage such striking colours?

- With some dead colours, sir!”

This quote still puzzles me and, seeing Degas’ pastel, I share Vollard’s amazement.

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