swirls and streaks of blue, white, orange, and yellow color with a faint black outline of a face

Odilon Redon, Orpheus (detail), ca. 1905. Signed in red ‘ODILON REDON’ and in graphite ‘ODILON R.’ (lower right). Pastel on gray laid paper, laid down on canvas, 23 7/16 x 18 7/16 in. (59.5 x 46.8 cm). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Bequest of Frederick J. Hellman, 1965.29

Color into Line: Pastels from the Renaissance to the Present

Color into Line presents a powerful selection of masterpiece drawings done with pastel, one of the most versatile and adaptable media in art history. Spanning from the Renaissance to most recent artistic experimentations — from Rosalba Carriera to Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas to John Altoon and Wayne Thiebaud — the narrative highlights technical aspects with an emphasis on the design process behind the works. Drawn mostly from the Fine Arts Museums’ own holdings in the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, the Museums’ department of works on paper, the exhibition celebrates the artistry of pastel through the richness of the Bay Area art collections with selected loans from local private collections and public institutions.



Learn how pastels are made through a demonstration by Alex Warren. Warren received a BFA at San Francisco Art Institute in 1990 and founded Sinopia Pigments in San Francisco in 1995, specializing in pigments and traditional artist’s materials.

Jars of pastels

Making Pastels with Alex Warren

Rosalba Carriera’s pastels captured the essence of her time: sophisticated, mundane, and seductive. Her success, and exceptional admission in the Académie Royale of Paris in 1720, paved the way for women artists of the following generations. In this conversation, Furio Rinaldi, Color into Line exhibition curator, and Xavier F. Salomon, deputy director and chief curator at The Frick Collection, discuss the artist’s personal world and working practice.

Detail of a pastel artwork

Behind Rosalba’s Pastels: A Conversation with Xavier F. Salomon

Impressionism marked a resurgence for pastel across Europe and America. Advocating truthfulness and modernity, artists like Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, and Eva Gonzalès applied pastel to daring subjects with technical prowess. In doing so, they asserted themselves as formidable artists, transcending and even overturning the medium’s traditional ‘feminine’ connotations. This conversation features Furio Rinaldi, Color into Line exhibition curator, and Laura D. Corey, senior researcher at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Detail of a pastel painting

Impressionist Women and Pastels: A Conversation with Laura D. Corey

nude person bathing surrounded by red, yellow, and orange colors


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Presenting Sponsors
Diane B. Wilsey
John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn

Lead Sponsors
Barbara A. Wolfe

Generous Support
Marie and George Hecksher
The Tavolozza Foundation

Additional support is provided by Mrs. George Hopper Fitch, Maurice W. Gregg, and Shelagh and Thomas P. Rohlen.

Currently on view