Sitting on a busy little street in Paris (directly across from a busy little museum called the Louvre) is a dark green storefront with some interesting art posters and carefully positioned paints, brushes, and other supplies in the window. It looks like many other enchanting Parisian storefronts; but what lies inside is a family business that, over the course of 130 years, has made a mark on the art world like no other. Sennelier was originally established across from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1887 as a humble seller of art supplies. But what attracted the big names of their time was what would soon become the legendary Sennelier brand of pastels, paints, pigments and other colorful art mediums. They were favored by the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Dali, Cezanne, Kandinsky and more, and continue to service the artists of Paris and beyond to this day.
Gustave Sennelier, the store’s founder, traveled Europe to amass an eclectic collection of ingredients to use in his colors, including roots, burnt bones, carmine, raw sienna and clay. Perfected over the years with a slow, careful, machine-minimal manufacturing process, Sennelier’s pastels and paints are now considered world-class. The store has even spawned some interesting treats over the decades, including a honey-based watercolor and an acrylic that changes color when viewed from different angles.
It’s all available in their tiny, attic-like space bedecked with glass cupboards and tiny wooden drawers stocked with every shade and hue of paint and pastel imaginable (the oil pastel was, in fact, invented here in 1949 at the request of Pablo Picasso). Walking in and breathing the musk of all that fresh drawing paper, heavy paint, and pastel dust, it’s hard to believe that Gustave started by selling other company’s products before he ventured into color-making for himself. We’re glad he changed his mind.