Originally developed in the late 18th century as a substitute for pure graphite, conté crayons were widely used throughout the 19th century. Named after their inventor, Nicolas-Jacques Conté, they consisted of a mixture of clay and graphite with black pigment combined with a slightly waxy binder and compressed into short sticks. They came in different grades of hardness and were available either as sticks of crayon or encased in wood like a pencil. Although the tonal range of conté crayons might seem similar to other black drawing materials, they have their own distinctive qualities. Whereas charcoal, for example, quickly clogs the surface of textured paper with its splintering, fragmentary particles, conté crayon is easier to control and the degree of darkness is directly proportionate to the pressure employed. Its most telling use was by Georges Seurat in his drawings of the 1880s.
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