Creating Hundreds of Colors, La Maison du Pastel Continues a 300-Year-Old Tradition



Art
History

#art history
#color
#color theory
#pastel

June 25, 2024

Kate Mothes

With roots dating back to early 18th-century Paris, La Maison du Pastel has the distinction of being the world’s oldest manufacturer of pastels. Producing more than 1,800 unique colors from high-quality pigments still mixed and rolled by hand, the material has been used by artists for hundreds of years, including art history heavyweights like Edgar Degas and Claude Monet.

Business Insider recently shared a video as part of the publication’s Still Standing series, taking us behind the scenes of the artisanal company’s studio in rural France, where a small team works tirelessly to keep the 300-year-old tradition alive and thriving.

Originally founded by Henri Roché, La Maison du Pastel creates pastels that are coveted for their texture and the range and intensity of hue. The original formula, which involves combining pigments with a binder, took Roché and his son decades to perfect, taking into consideration the way the material adhered to paper, reacted over time, and achieved the most vibrant colors.

Pastels have never garnered the prestige or romance of more popular mediums like oil paint, and over time they have gone in and out of fashion. But in 2000, Isabelle Roché—a distant relative of the founder—saw potential in the company’s legacy, secret recipe, and niche audience. Isabelle, along with co-owner Margaret Zayer, are the studio’s only two employees, working together to produce classic colors like Cobalt and Burnt Umber alongside variations like Caribbean Blue, Dragon’s Blood, and Crepuscular Violet.

Roché and Zayer are always introducing new tints and shades to the expanding catalogue, and you can follow updates on Instagram. The online shop features iridescent hues, mini sticks or “Petits Roché,” antique sets, bespoke wooden boxes, and drawers to hold—if you have around $30,000—the entire collection.

 

All images © Business Insider

a gif from a short documentary about a pastel maker in France, showing drawers full of numerous pastel sticks in different colors

a still from a short documentary about a pastel maker in France, showing a trays of pastels being loaded onto a shelving unit to cure or dry

a gif from a short documentary about a pastel maker in France, showing different colors of blue pigment being scraped into piles on a worktable in preparation for turning them into pastel sticks

a still from a short documentary about a pastel maker, showing an artist working on a drawing with boxes of pastels in the background

#art history
#color
#color theory
#pastel

 

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