Henri Roché Soft Pastels

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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.

Pastels – A Drawing or Painting Medium?

You can repeatedly hear question whether pastels are painting or drawing medium. In his blog Richard will not answer the question but rather give you arguments for both.

“Line is the one thing that man has created that does not exist in nature. We see light as it falls on form. Line is a type of calligraphy, or handwriting, that we created as a means of communication. Since pastel is a dry medium, kindred to charcoal and chalk, it is easy to see why it is so often associated with drawing. Many painters enjoy its ability to easily produce line and use it in a fashion closely associated to drawing. Others choose to work with it in the fashion of paint. This makes pastel a very versatile medium, providing a gamut of possibilities…” read more on Richard’s blog

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