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Crayon Drawings

Crayon drawings consist of colored wax, chalk, or charcoal applied on paper. While many may associate the term "crayon" with the rudimentary drawing implements favored by preschool students, their alternate title of oil pastel may elicit loftier connotations.

Whichever you choose to call them, the crayon, or pastel, has been enjoyed by artists since the Renaissance era. Its popularity dramatically increased during the 18th century, when many British and French draftsmen selected it as their primary mode of expression.

Artists celebrate the variety of techniques enabled by the medium, which result in an equally diverse assortment of aesthetic outcomes. Crayon gained recognition at the hands of French masters such as Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Jean-François Millet, and Eugéne Delacroix. Artistic affinity for the crayon was passed on to the next generation, which included Éduard Manet and Edgar Degas, and later, the French Symbolist painter Odilon Redon. Early American artists James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt were also strong proponents of crayon, which they appreciated for its warm color and expressive potential.

Quick Facts

  • A crayon drawing by Whistler entitled "Venetian Courtyard" sold at Christie’s in 2012 for more than $80,000
  • Crayon drawings continue to be created by many preeminent contemporary artists including R.B. Kitaj and Wolf Khan
  • The quality of crayons and their support (paper) is far superior today than it was during the time that Chardin or Manet were creating drawings. Preserved under the right conditions, crayon drawings on archival paper should last for millennia

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