The Laughing Zebra

Sennelier Shop in Paris

When we were in Paris in June we stopped into the Sennelier shop. Don’t you just love an art supply store? This one is full of history and character. It is easy to imagine Cezzane, Degas and Gauguin squeezing their way through the tiny shop in pursuit of their cherished supplies. It was opened in 1887, amidst hundreds of other color merchants. (In 1885, there were 600 listed), and is still run by the Sennelier family. One of their claims to fame is that they created  a special oil pastel for Picasso who came into the shop in 1948 with a request. He wanted to know if they could make a medium that could be used on any surface, without requiring a special coating. It took them a year to create the sticks of pigment that were waxy rather than chalky, and which could be used in thick, dense strokes. Picasso bought 40 of each of the 48 colors. They quickly became a sensation in the store and are still made today. Even though I know you can order these pastels online, I wanted to buy a few to take home from this amazing store. I also bought a few chalk pastels, imagining Degas himself using these. In fact he came into the store once and requested soft pastels in a range of browns, which they ended up developing a series of 700 shades in the medium, 30 of which became Degas’s own browns. And this is one of the things I so loved about Paris. Literally everywhere I went I felt caught in a moment in history and could really feel the sense of creativity and inspiration that must have been just thick in the air, as all of these artists, on the cusp of great discoveries were living and breathing in this space.

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