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French Pastels: Treasures from the Vault

French Pastels: Treasures from the Vault offers a chance to view some 40 late-19th-century masterworks that are rarely exhibited due to their fragility. The high concentration of pure pigment powder that lends pastels their distinctive velvety texture and luminous, blendable colors has a downside: the particles remain loose on the surface, leaving the work vulnerable to smudging without the application of a fixative (which has an undesirable dulling effect).

Yet what better medium with which to capture, as the Impressionists sought to, the ever-changing effects of weather, dancing light and shadow, and fleeting facial expressions? Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, and friends aren’t the only ones represented here, however; Realist Jean-François Millet, Symbolist Odilon Redon, and others further illustrate the versatility of pastel.