Rarely Seen 18th-Century Pastel Portraits on View in New Exhibition at Metropolitan Museum

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NEW YORK, N Y.- Pastel quite suddenly became popular throughout Europe in the 18th century, so much so that, by 1750, some 2,500 artists and amateurs were working in pastel in Paris alone. Portraits in pastel were commissioned by all ranks of society, but most enthusiastically by the royal families, their courtiers, and the wealthy middle classes. Although pastel is a drawing material, 18th-century pastel portraits are often highly finished, quite large, brightly colored, and elaborately framed, evoking oil paintings, the medium to which they were invariably compared. The powdery pastel crayons are particularly suited to capturing the fleeting expressions that characterize the most life-like portraits. Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century