For those of us standing in the Harry Ransom Center’s Denius Seminar Room, looking at Elsa de Brun’s pastels was an amazing experience. She managed to take the simple medium of pastels into a three-dimensional art form while also keeping the lines sharply demarcated–something often difficult to do with pastels. We were also taken aback by the rich colors that jumped from the paper.
According to an article written by Swedish scholar Dr. Leif Sjöberg (“The Art of Elsa de Brun” in The American-Scandinavian Review, Winter, 1971-72), at the time, Elsa de Brun may have been one of the only artists in America working almost exclusively with pastels. The medium is notorious for being one that does not hold up well over time and with much handling. However, de Brun played with various techniques, including incorporating other mediums such as watercolor, and using several different types of papers to figure out a method of reducing the danger of degredation to the finished artwork. A result of her technique is that the art takes on a three-dimensional quality while also deepening the color saturation.
The technique described by Dr. Sjöberg was clearly evident to those of us viewing de Brun’s work for the first time. It is also a significant reason that de Brun’s work should not be forgotten. She worked in a medium rarely used by artists and created a technique that enabled the medium to withstand time and handling. These reasons alone would be enough to argue the significance of her work, yet her depth of movement, characterization, and connection with the viewer and with the greater art community are also equally important.
The fact that Elsa de Brun has fallen out of the public’s recognition as a significant artist of the 20th century is a driving force behind this project. We want to make sure the art world does not forget Elsa de Brun and her work.