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portrait crayon

Crayon portraits were typically rectangular or oval, measuring between 40 x 50 cm and 50 x 60 cm (15.74 x 19.68 in. and 19.68 x 23.62 in.). The paper had to be slightly coarse for color to adhere. Highlights and large expanses of similar tones were reworked using pencils, Conté crayons, pastels, watercolors or gouache paint, applied using stumps, fingers, brushes or (starting in the 1880s) an airbrush. Eyes, hair and clothing were especially worked up, sometimes to a degree that the underlying photograph was hardly visible. The final image was mounted on rigid cardboard (or sometimes wood or canvas) and was usually framed.

The condition in which these images are found today depends on the materials used and on how they have been stored. Starting at the end of the nineteenth century, paper and cardboard were made from chemically unstable materials and so have aged poorly and are brittle and subject to yellowing and staining. When used to mount crayon portraits, they contaminate the photographic print, where their deterioration is often catalyzed by light and humidity.

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