Contemporary crayons are purported to have originated in Europe, where some of the first cylinder-shaped crayons were made with charcoal and oil. Pastels are an art medium having roots with the modern crayon and stem back to Leonardo da Vinci in 1495. Conté crayons, out of Paris, are a hybrid between a pastel and a conventional crayon, used since the late 1790s as a drawing crayon for artists. Later, various hues of powdered pigment eventually replaced the primary charcoal ingredient found in most early 19th century products. References to crayons in literature appear as early as 1813 in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Joseph Lemercier (born in Paris 1803—died 1884), considered by some of his contemporaries to be “the soul of lithography”, was also one of the founders of the modern crayon. Through his Paris business circa 1828 he produced a variety of crayon and color related products. But even as those in Europe were discovering that substituting wax for the oil strengthened the crayon, various efforts in the United States were also developing.
Japan has been subject to sudden invasions of new ideas followed by long periods of minimal contact with the outside world. Over time the Japanese developed the ability to absorb, imitate, and finally assimilate those elements of foreign culture that complemented their aesthetic preferences. The earliest complex art in Japan was produced in the 7th and 8th centuries in connection with Buddhism. In the 9th century, as the Japanese began to turn away from China and develop indigenous forms of expression, the secular arts became increasingly important; until the late 15th century, both religious and secular arts flourished. After the Ōnin War (1467–1477), Japan entered a period of political, social, and economic disruption that lasted for over a century. In the state that emerged under the leadership of the Tokugawa shogunate, organized religion played a much less important role in people’s lives, and the arts that survived were primarily secular.