Chalk Pastels: A Brief History

Chalk Pastels are “manufactured from a carefully balanced mix of pigment, a filler such as chalk or clay, and a binder, then shaped into sticks and dried.” NGA

The Fine Arts

The history of Chalk Pastels begins during the 16th Century. Chalk Pastels were used by Renaissance Artists to complete preliminary drawings in preparation for larger paintings and frescoes. 

It wasn’t until the 18th Century however that Chalk Pastels gained in popularity. Many female Artists, notably Rosalba Carriera (self-portrait pictured below), became renowned for their Chalk Pastel portraiture. 

Rosalba Carriera Self Portrait

The popularity of this medium was short lived and despite the efforts of many Artists and collectors throughout history, Chalk Pastels have remained out of favour in the academic art world, largely due to its lingering feminine associations.

The I-Madonnari


During the 16th Century chalking the streets also began in Italy.  Known as the I-Madonnari, or in other countries Screevers, these performance street Artists would travel the nation working on commissioned monuments for the church. 

When these monuments were complete, the Artists found other ways to earn a living by recreating their artworks from the church onto the pavement.

The yearly I-Madonnari Arts Festival in Italy, which first began in 1987, continues this Renaissance tradition. 

Here in Australia, similar festivals have been held each year around the nation since 2005.

The Chalkboard

During the early 19th Century, the chalkboard became a popular writing material in schools and revolutionalised the way teachers now communicate with their students.

However, it’s popularity was short lived and was phased out from the 1970’s due to the invention of the whiteboard. 

Four Blackboards 1972 Joseph Beuys

At the same time, Joseph Beuys explored the chalkboard at the deepest level of conceptual art. His artworks (pictured above) have been collected by National Galleries around the world.

In more modern times, the chalkboard has become a popular form of retro signage and is a unique and artistic way for businesses to advertise to their customers.

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