In 1949, Parisian painter Henri-Goetz approached Henri-Sennelier, the famous artist materials manufacturer, about creating a wax color stick for his friend Pablo Picasso. Picasso, a long-time Sennelier customer and a frequent visitor to their store across the street from the Louvre museum, was looking for a medium that could be used freely on a variety of surfaces without fading or cracking.
Their collaboration produced the incomparable Sennelier oil pastels. Originally available in a palette of classic hues, the color selection was expanded with the additional of metallic and iridescent hues. Beyond these classic hues, a selection of unique shades is available and, in particular, a gradation of grays, required for a balanced palette. This evolution is the fruit of a long-standing collaboration with European and North American painters who have worked with Sennelier to develop an exceptional palette of shades.
The Sennelier Oil Pastel is a product that makes use of the components used in all Sennelier colors... top-quality pigments, an extremely pure synthetic binding medium, and mineral wax. The pigments are ground with an inert, non-siccative binding medium that does not oxidize and that has no effect upon either the film stability or the surface. This base is then mixed with wax (neutral-pH). The balance of this mix provides Sennelier Oil Pastels with a unique unctuousness and a creamy texture that allows for a great deal of freedom in pictorial expression.
Sennelier Oil Pastels possess an extraordinarily high pigment content, thus providing them with a high coloring and covering potential, excellent brightness, and a high degree of light stability (with the exception of metallic and fluorescent shades). The remarkable properties of these components, along with their precise dosage, provide Sennelier Oil Pastels with unique properties, making the brand a world-recognized reference.
Individual sticks are paper wrapped, and measure 2-5/8" x 3/8".
Gustave Sennelier opened the doors of the Maison Sennelier at 3 Quai Voltaire in 1887. This Parisian landmark faces the Louvre on the Left Bank, just around the corner from the École des Beaux Arts. Artists like Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet, Bonnard, Soutine, Picasso, Modigliani, Kandinsky, and Dali made this place a historic rendez-vous. A place where the most celebrated names could find the finest colors available for artists.
Guided by the advice and aesthetic vision of his Impressionist friends, Gustave Sennelier created a range of 100 oil colors, which were soon followed by full ranges of vibrant watercolors and egg tempera. Sennelier egg tempera was used in some of Chagall’s most beautiful works. Gustave Sennelier’s relationship with these turn of the century masters was so close that painters like Cézanne painted in Gustave’s garden. Sennelier’s range of extra-soft pastels “à l’écu” became Degas’ favorite and a large range of unique dark hues, specially crafted for him, remain in the range today. In 1910, this unparalleled selection reached over 700 separate colors. This expansive line has since been consolidated into the definitive selection of 525 colors we know today.
In 1936 Sennelier followed the burgeoning avant-garde movement that was taking shape at this time and opened a second store in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris. Today, the Montparnasse store serves artists who are still faithful to the spirit of Montparnasse’s storied past. In 1947 Picasso approached Henri Sennelier to create a completely new medium that had the qualities of vivacity, luminosity and unctuosity in an easy to apply stick form. The result was Sennelier’s oil pastels, which instantly became the standard of quality for this medium. The unusually wide range of greys in the oil pastel palette is Picasso’s imprimatura and legacy. Sennelier also offers a full line of papers in blocks, pads and albums which were the favorites of the masters of 20th century art. Especially famous is the La Carte pastel board which uses special ingredients in the surface, giving it an unique soft tooth ideal for use with pastels.
Today, Henri’s son Dominique is the third generation to direct the Maison Sennelier, and the legacy of tradition and innovation continues with the development of Tinfix Design silk dyes, a 56 color range which is the evolution of the original Tinfix line created in the 1950’s. Recently, a line of artist grade oil sticks made from the same ingredients as Sennelier oils was created for contemporary expressive techniques, allowing painters to apply the paints by hand. Like his grandfather Gustave, Dominique Sennelier holds store hours, and is available to help artists visiting the store with any questions on materials.
The essential factor in all this history is a passion for color, embodied in Sennelier’s choice of pigments used in its color ranges. Sennelier circles the globe to find classic pigments such as cobalt, cadmiums and Italian earths that possess qualities that are both beautiful and unique. Rare and precious pigments such as genuine cinnabar, lapis lazuli, gamboge, malachite, verdigris, and bismuth white are the jewels of the Sennelier collection, as well as exquisite natural colorants such as madder and indigo. Sennelier offers a veritable treasure chest of legendary painting mediums and resins such as Dutch Gloss, Turner Transparent and Satin Varnish Medium, as well as true European Venetian Turpentine and a special Maroger Medium formula. Sennelier can provide the artist with whatever materials he or she may need, no matter how esoteric or historic they may be.
Sennelier’s expertise in colors and art materials is surpassed only by their passion for them. Sennelier has been a resource for artists since the era of the Impressionists, and that tradition continues today for all customers of the Maison Sennelier.