Prehistoric cave paintings in southern France, Spain and South Africa show that man's early coloured paintings used red, white and ochre earth pigments, and burnt bone. Italian Renaissance Masters used red chalk to do architectural and engineering drawings. A work survives by Guido Reni, 1575-1642, who produced the earliest paintings in a variety of coloured chalks. Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, remains the most important pastel painter we can study. He greatly advanced pastel's total range of effects. Working to make his colours luminescent, he experimented with crosshatching, paints and pastel; he combined pastel with every medium and surface of paper, cardboard and canvas. He mixed pastels with gouache and watercolour, and steamed them to soften pigments. With brushes, he manipulated colours and mediums, dipping pastels into prepared solutions and fixing each of the layers. He popularized the use and advanced the knowledge of fixatives. Today, we have places and organizations that encourage painters in pastel as well as a whole roster of famous men and women who work in the medium. With the proliferation of pastel has come its monetary and cultural acceptance. It's the most permanent of all the mediums in existence. Its intrinsic beauty is without peer.
Pastel Artists of New Zealand’s aims are to promote pastel art as an art form in its own right and promote New Zealand pastel artists.