Paris is full of secrets, of timeless treasures hidden away in plain sight. Maison Sennelier is one of them. This exquisite shop which has supplied artists for more than a century including Degas and Cezanne, Picasso and Hockney, is in the 7th arrondissement. It’s a must visit for those who have a love of art and to step into the past…
It is impossible to imagine a better location: Maison Sennelier is situated on the Quai Voltaire – across from the Musée du Louvre—on a site first owned by a paint merchant established in the eighteenth century. It has been owned by the same family since 1887.
Sophie Sennelier, the founder’s great-granddaughter, recalls her ancestor’s story. Trained as a chemist, Gustave Sennelier began producing colors for artists, in the form of oil paints, water-colors, and pastels. Before the invention of the grinder, he crushed the pigments himself by hand in a mortar. It was Cézanne who urged Sennelier to broaden the palette of colors he was offering. Degas also patronized this renowned establishment and purchased his famous soft pastels here. Later, Picasso, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, and Nicolas de Staël were clients. David Hockney is a regular these days.
A timeless treasure trove
The shop’s façade has remained unaltered since the nineteenth century. The interior is filled with old counters, glass cabinets, and oak furnishings that lend their charm to the cavernous treasure trove. Oil paint, specially-made honey-based watercolors, dry and soft pastels in hundreds of different tones, gouaches, acrylics, and colored inks are organized next to pencils, brushes of all sizes, notebooks, and sketch pads aplenty—more than thirty-five thousand items in all. The upstairs is devoted to paper of all sorts, produced from cotton, sisal, bamboo, and papyrus. Some types are made in France; others are imported from farther afield, including China, Mexico, Thailand, India, Egypt, Korea, and Nepal. Their grains range from fine to rough, and some are encrusted with straw, moss, rice, mother-of-pearl, or coral, like the brilliant “moon papers” from Vietnam.
Everything displayed here is an inspiration to paint or draw. A simple sketchbook and a box of watercolors are all you need to get started.
Extracted from: Timeless Paris: Ateliers, Emporiums, Savoir Faire, by Marin Montagut, Flammarion 2021, a gorgeous book about the treasure troves of Paris…