Throughout the history of art, the pastel medium has been considered a medium of secondary interest. Despite its pulsating textures, vibrant colors, and unique receptivity to touch, this medium has been recognized above all for its swiftness in stroke and subsequent ability of the artist to record images of fleeting moments and ideas almost instantaneously. The focus on the advantageous rapidity of the pastel, however, hindered the pastel medium's potential as a mere preliminary technique to working with grander mediums, such as oil paint, thus failing to recognize the prominence of pastel in capturing character. This research endeavor focuses on a very specific era with comparably high usage of pastel-- late nineteenth-century Paris--and the distinctive characteristic that defines said era--the hyper-sexuality of the Parisian prostitute. The eminent presence of prostitution and the consequential iconography of female sexuality in late nineteenth-century Paris defined the world of French Bohemia and seeped into the artistic exchange of the era. Although holding a traditionally subsidiary position to other historically primary mediums, the pastel medium prevailed in communicating the sexuality, sensuality, and promiscuity of the sinful female in Paris at the close of the century. The pastel works of prominent artists in the nightlife milieu such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas which revolve around the theme of prostitution serve as key illustrations of the distinctive ability of the ephemeral medium to capture the mood and personality--and therefore the sensual quintessence--of its subject. Through contextual and visual analysis, this research endeavor thus ultimately aims to lift the traditionally secondary pastel medium to one of impressive proportions, emphasizing its unique advantages and raising its overall credence.


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Thesis Completion





Mendoza, Ilenia Colon


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program

Art History


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

5 years

Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis