Roche pastels... One of the best kept secrets of the pastel world. Until now Roche pastels were only available from a little shop in Paris, and only if you visited on Thursday afternoons. They have been compared to playing a Stradivarious. Handmade since 1720, these exquisite pastels have been used by an impressive list of pastelists, including Degas, Sisley and Whistler. Greatly prized, many contemporary painters have made it a point to purchase them when in Paris. We can save you the airfare.
In the year 1865, Henri Roche, a chemical engineer, chemist, biologist, and artist, purchased the workshop called "La Maison du Pastel". Henri Roche was a student of the famous Louis Pasteur, who also worked with pastels. Roche pastel formulations were based on recommendations offered by artists such as Edgar Degas, Cheret, and Whistler. These artists requested a pastel with a wide range of harmonious, luminous colors that would adhere to paper without the need of a fixative, which could alter the color.
What began in the 18th Century as the pastel workshop "La Maison du Pastel" continues today under the direction of Isabelle Roche a direct descendant of Henri Roche. Many pastel artists have made it a point to visit Isabelle's shop when in Paris. By the way, because the French government imposes a tax on art supplies, you will find the cost for Roche pastels in Paris is substantially higher than ours.
How they differï¿½You will find these pastels very unique in color, texture and feel. Roche pastels are formulated with pumice, which allows for a greater concentration of pigment then most pastels. Other brands of pastels start out as a batch of white chalk; to which pigment is added. Roche pastels start as a batch of pure pigment, to which pumice and a tiny bit of binder are added- so you are painting with the pure, unadulterated, saturated pigments. According to master pastelist, Gail Sauter "Roche pastels are marvelous for those 'genius' strokes that bring a work to completion and make it sing---their power is amazing". Roche pastels are incredible for final layers, because the colors are intense but not formulated with a white base; so they will not "hide" your underpainting.
Franca, one of our staff artists can't believe how luscious these pastels are. While making the color charts, Franca remarked, " I feel like I am painting these charts, these are incredible".
Kathleen Hanney, a pastel painter who also works with us, says "I knew that the concentration of pigment was greater in Roche than in other brands, but after using them in final layers of paintings I was stunned to see just how much more concentrated the Roche are. I tried some with underpainting, and again I was stunned by the color concentration. Brushing turpenoid over the pastel base created a glowing underpainting that was almost opaque, because it was saturated with so much pigment. I've never seen such color when using pastels this way! Roche behave like fine oil paints."
Watch the video to watch Isabelle Roche make the handmade pastels! It's a beautiful process.