Henri Roché Soft Pastels

Henri Roche logo

Are you a soft pastel artist who still haven’t tried the most famous pastels in the world? Well, join the club :). I promised myself I will buy a small set the first time I’m completely happy with my painting. While that can still take some time I can at least surf on the net to see why there is so much noise about the Henri Roché pastels. The legend says that the old masters of impressionism used these beautiful pastels. Degas, Chéret, Whistler, Sisley, and later on Bussy, Vuillard, Poliakoff and many others have by their expectations contributed to the elaboration of Roché pastels. The pastel set grew up to 1800 pieces at the peak of production before Second World War and the collection of 1650 colors won the gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition in 1937. I guess the old masters were making a lot of money if they could have afforded such exclusive pastels :). The production of these pastels is having a second life since the Isabelle Roché took over the business from her relatives in 2000. Before that there was a small operation run by three elderly sisters carrying on the work of their grandfather, Henri Roché. When the oldest sister was asked why she is still maintaining no profit business at the age of 85 she said “She didn’t want to let the artists down.”
Today Isabelle is producing palette of 600 Henri Roché soft pastels and you can visit her website “La Maison du Pastel”. The website is very nice and you can almost feel the spirits of the old soft pastel masters.
The price for a single stick is from 15$ to 20$ and you can find them at Rochester Art Supply. I found the better deals for the sets on the Amazon.
A couple of resources: a very entertaining story by Barry Katz published in the Pastel Journal 2007. Interesting story from Reuters 2008. Short interview with Isabelle on youtube.

I got good pointers thanks to Casey Klahn and Katherine Tyrell’s blogs.

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9 Replies to “Henri Roché Soft Pastels”

  1. I remember buying a few pastels from one of the sisters in Paris 1993, she wouldn’t let me touch one until I bought It!
    I bought darks, served me well the rest of my trip
    wish I could have some more

  2. Having invested in a landscape box a few months ago, I think the oft quoted “best pastels in the world” is true, intensity of colour, superb uniform quality, spreadability, incredible for
    nuances and detail for finishing off. Unique in “feel” during application. Despite cost this is one brand I will add to as occasion arises. Isabelle Roche is a joy to deal with, so helpful and goes to great length to answer queries.

  3. I was recently gifted three colors of Henry Roche pastels to add to my pastel collection. My guy got his brother, a historian, to seek out the difficult to find shop ‘ La Maison du Pastel’ in Paris…. very sweet! Isabell Roche greeted him with delightful stories and she was pleased to see that a Canadian artist was going to be using Henry Roche pastels. I have not used them yet but I am excited to take them for a creative journey.

  4. I understand you can no longer purchase Henri Roche pastels in the US. It has something to do with the labeling. I bought some at the IAPS Convention in Albuquerque, NH 4 3 years ago.

  5. Hi Raikilady, thanks for the information.
    Since I don’t live in the States I can’t really comment this but it looks to me that you can buy it through the Amazon (see the link in the post) and through the Rochester Art Supply. Please let me know if you try. Cheers!!!

  6. Someone I know actually runs a small pastel shop in Cambridge, ON, Canada and he carries the Henri Roche Pastels. He also mentioned the store in Rochester which has the product (since Isabelle Roche is actually visiting him today before stopping by there, i guess he ought to know 🙂 )

  7. Thank you Kare for mentioning my shop when discussing Henri Roche pastels. Indeed it’s
    true that I carry the world’s most famous
    pastels, and yesterday I spoke with Isabelle
    and she will be preparing a complete set
    of 567 Colours in a custom wood cabinet that
    will be unveiled in the shop this coming May.
    The unveiling event will co-inside with my one
    year anniversary in the pastel business.
    Best Regards,

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