Fashionable Likeness: Pastel Portraits in 18th-Century Britain

November 1, 2016–May 7, 2017, Getty Center

/ Plan your visit

Portrait of Mary Sturt of Crichel and Her Three Eldest Children, about 1777, Daniel Gardner; pencil, pastel, and opaque watercolor. Private collection. Image © Christie's Images Limited (2013)

In the 18th century, portraits, no longer a prerogative of the nobility, were commissioned by wider sections of British society, including the newly rich. Eager to affirm their elevated social status, sitters were depicted in the latest fashion. Pastel, with its unique texture and luminosity, served as a highly suitable medium to capture sitters’ evanescent expressions, elaborate hairstyles, and sumptuous clothing. It also offered practical advantages over oil because it took less time to dry, and materials were easily portable and less costly. This focused installation features two private loans and works from the Museum’s collection.

Plan your visit