BITS 'N' PIECES
If you want to remember something, write it down on paper. In a study, neuroscientists asked a group of volunteers to note a schedule and then asked them to recall the information one hour later. Those who had written it on paper, rather than a touchscreen, remembered most. Writing by hand produces tactile sensations than using a screen. The stroke of the pen and the texture of paper help fix information in our memories. The study also found that writing on paper was 25 percent faster.
In 1841, American artist John G. Rand invented the tin paint tube to store paint. This made it easier for artists to travel with their materials in tow, facilitating the plein air techniques that became a signature of the Impressionists.
In 1887, Gustave Sennelier, a skilled draftsman who illustrated catalogues for the chemical industry, appeared on the scene. But his true passion was chemistry itself; for five years, the young man took evening classes at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers.
One April morning, riding down Quai Voltaire in a horse-drawn carriage, he noticed a “for rent” sign posted in front of an art supply shop. He took over the lease and purchased all the remaining stock from the shop’s bankrupt owner.
At first, Sennelier sold pre-made paints. But it wasn’t long before he decided to produce his own range of colours, crisscrossing Europe to make connections with the world’s best pigment manufacturers. He transformed the previous owner’s studio into a workshop, and installed two mills to grind and mix pigments.
Soon, the shop could make anywhere from 900 to 1200 tubes of paint a day—some of them, like “Chinese Orange,” exclusive to Sennelier. Other shades were developed at the request of particular painters who patronised his shop.
So successful was the business that it was passed down through generations. Henri Sennelier, the grandson of Gustave, was approached by Pablo Picasso in 1948. The Spanish painter had already bought several notebooks from the shop, but that day he had a more complicated request. He asked Henri if he could make a medium that could be used on any surface, without requiring a special coating.
It took him a year, but Henri returned with something he called “oil pastels”—sticks of pigment that were waxy rather than chalky, and which could be used in thick, dense strokes. Picasso, satisfied, bought 40 of each of the 48 colors. Henri threw the rest of his stock on the shelf, wondering if they’d sell. However, they quickly became a sensation, and the store still makes them today.
Compiled by SZ