Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Pastels of M. Henri Roche, Paris


As I've been preparing some of my original pastels, for a Spring sale, a memory of seeking out pastels in Paris came to mind. Two famous pastel stores were a goal - Sennelier and La Maison du Pastel. The first was easy as it's just across the Seine from The Louvre. The second would prove to be a challenge.


It wasn't easy locating the little shop that still made the pastels that chemist, Henri Roche, had made for such famous pastelists as Degas, Redon, Whistler, up to present artists. I had read about La Maison du la Pastel on the internet and wanted to find this out-of-the-way shop that was only open on Thursdays from 2-6 PM. I did find it but, alas, it was closed. There was a note on the door. I don't know French, but two-years of  Latin gave me a rudimentary idea of what was written. It seems the person in charge was next door having tea.

Bold American (me)walked into the bar and asked for Madam Roche. The waiter had no idea what I wanted. He kept trying to seat me. By a process of elimination, I found Isabelle Roche. Nothing like I expected. She was the young, college de-greed granddaughter of M. Roche.

  She had decided to use her grandfather's book of formulas to re-create his work. I thought her very clever considering the challenge she set up for herself. After all, her grandfather had collaborated with Degas, known to be difficult at best, to create acceptable pastel sticks. 

Madam Roche and I walked to the shop, which looked and felt like a typical old Paris warehouse. 

She asked what color I wanted. I said, "Gray." From behind her, she pulled out tray after tray of grays... blue gray, red gray, and so it went. I was enthralled and next asked for green. Out came tray after tray of every imaginable green.



I made the mistake of not asking the price. Madam finally brought me back to reality. She said, "These pastels are expensive," and rang up what I had so far. Mon dieux! I left in a financial daze with my carton of beautiful pastels wondering if Degas had experienced the same dazed feeling. (Below are pastels by Degas, Redon and Whistler in that order)

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