(b. 1699, Paris, d. 1779, Paris)
Pastel, 46 x 38 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Failing eyesight and poor health in his last years led Chardin to change his medium to pastel, but he continued to work and exhibit. He first exhibited pastel heads in 1771, and for the rest of his life he continued to produce similar heads, several of which are lost or unidentified. What he could achieve in the medium, however, remains memorably, movingly clear in the well-known portrait of himself. It owes little to La Tour or Perronneau. Instead, pastel is made to conform to Chardin's ever-recognizable technique: hatching, inlaying of colour, tonal sensitivity without illusionistic tricks, marvellous firmness of forms - utter unsentimentality of vision - such are the qualities of the pastel portraits. Chardin had indeed always possessed them, and was triumphantly in his late seventies to prove that he retained them.