A. Abert

Title: Untitled


Impressionism & Pastel
By their nature, pastels usually have pure, but somewhat soft and pale colors. As a result, one cannot rely heavily on gradations of gray and black to provide shading. Excessive use of grays and black in a pastel painting often results in a "muddy" appearance or indistinct colors. Instead, pastelists tend to make use of color contrasts, and by taking a more impressionist style.

In true Impressionism, shading is done with almost no black -- black is used exclusively as a color -- instead, shading is expressed in cool colors, especially shades of blue. This "color language" is confusing to some people at first, because they are accustomed to seeing shading expressed in shades of gray and black, as is seen in photographs or classical portraits of the style of Rembrandt. Thus the illusion of roundness, or depth, is not as apparent for those who are more accustomed to one color language, rather than the other.  One can also see an Impressionist influence where the shading under the river grass is a dark green, mixed with some blues and magentas. In pastel, layers are achieved by scumbling one color on top of a lower one, "cutting" into the previous layer with the new color, or by simply placing the colors side-by-side.

Academies and Salons
In France, "Academies" are institutions and learned societies, which monitor, foster, critique and protect French cultural production. Academies first began to appear in France in the Renaissance (Jean-Antoine de Baïf created one devoted to poetry and music), inspired by Italian models (such as the academy around Marsilio Ficino). The first half of the seventeenth century saw a phenomenal growth in private learned academies, organized around a half-dozen or a dozen individuals meeting regularly. Academies were more institutional and more concerned with criticism and analysis than those literary gatherings today called “salons” which were more focused on pleasurable discourse in society, although certain gatherings around such figures as Marguerite de Valois were close to the academic spirit.

By the middle of the century, the number of private academies decreased as academies gradually came under government control, sponsorship and patronage. The first private academy to become "official" and to this day the most prestigious of governmental academies is the "Académie française", founded in 1634 by Cardinal Richelieu. It is concerned with the French language.

In the fine arts, the Académie de peinture et de sculpture ("Academy of Painting and Sculpture") was founded by Cardinal Mazarin in 1648; the Académie d'architecture ("Academy of Architecture") was founded by Jean-Baptiste Colbert in 1671; the Académie de musique ("Academy of Music") was founded in 1669. In 1816, these three academies were reunitied as the Académie des beaux-arts ("Academy of Fine Arts"), which is (along with the "Académie française") one of the five academies that make up the "Institut de France" ("French Institute").

From the 17th to the 20th century, the Académie de peinture et sculpture organized official art exhibitions called Salons. To show at a salon, a young artist needed to be received by the Académie by first submitting an artwork to the jury; only Académie artists could be shown in the salons. Salons were started under Louis XIV and continued from 1667-1704. After a hiatus, the salons started up again in 1725. Under Louis XV, the most prestigious Salon took place in Paris (the Salon de Paris) in the Salon carré of the Louvre, but there were also salons in the cities of Bordeaux, Lille, and Toulouse.

In 1881, the government withdrew official sponsorship from the annual Salon, and a group of artists organized the Société des artistes français to take responsibility for the show.

In the 19th century, the salon system frequently incited criticism from artists for the bland or academic quality of the artwork, while radical artists (like Edouard Manet or Gustave Courbet) would not be received or would be greatly censured by the "respectable" public. The salon system thus forced radical and modern artists to seek alternative or unofficial exhibition sites. This is especially true for Impressionists and Fauvism.

The Académie de peinture et sculpture is also responsible for the Académie de France in the Villa Médicis in Rome (founded in 1666) which allows promising artists to study in Rome.

Year: c. 1885
Medium: Pastel with traces of graphite on paper 
Image size: 14 x 23
Signature: Signed by the artist