Monday, May 12, 2008

Art shops in London - Green & Stone

Green & Stone, 259 Kings Road Chelsea

Last week I visited Green & Stone in Chelsea and this is the second of my reviews of art shops in London. They were kind enough to let me photograph inside the shop so this is something of a photo-essay as well!
Green & Stone, supplier of specialist Art Materials and Picture Framing, was first established in Chelsea in 1927, and is one of the longest running shops on the popular Kings Road.
Green & Stone is a very impressive fine art suppliers. It's very much the way art shops used to be in the past and stocks a huge range of good quality art supplies. This is, thankfully, one shop which has not decided to target the art student or graphic design market - it's very much catering for those who want fine art supplies and good quality.

Shelves of Inks

You can read about the history of the shop and who owns it now and the current philosophy and business approach to fine art supplies and framing service on the History page of the website

Although based in London, this is not a local shop for me but I'd been promising myself a visit for some time. I lingered long and will definitely be returning. What marks them out as special?

Inks: Well the range of inks that they stock is phenomenal. I saw the Haxink - which was very tempting..........
Haxink - Permanent ink made from natural ingredients (iron gall) to an ancient recipe. Contained in a stone bottle with a wax sealed stopper.
The Abraxas inks come in extremely attractive small bottles. This environmentally friendly ink is made in Switzerland and the Abraxas shop in Basel looks like it would also be worth a visit!

Paper: I saw papers there which I've never seen anywhere else - such as Turner Blue which is made by the Ruscombe Paper Mill which produces a comprehensive range of conservation and fine art papers made by hand. It is so rewarding to be able to go into an art shop and find papers which are made by the smaller suppliers. They may be more expensive - but they are unlike anything else which the larger suppliers manufacture. I've talked to a leading professional watercolour artist who is very enamoured with Turner Blue and the impact it has on his watercolours.

Handmade papers

AZUR DE TURNER - neutral sized

A replica of one of the blue papers produced by an English mill between 1810 and 1835 for J.M.W. Turner (1775 - 1851) the famous English watercolour artist. From 1820 Turner used many of these papers during his travels in Belgium, Italy, Germany and France. The shade of this paper aallos watercolour artists to be more adventurous than is possible with a plain white sheet.
Ruscombe Mill - watercolour papers
Drawing paper and sketchbooks: I noticed that the drawing paper and sketchbook section was equally impressive and carried a very fine range of papers by mainly European suppliers. It was the widest selection of papers I've seen in a long time in the UK - and carried a number which I've only previously seen in art shops in Europe.

Watercolour and oil paints

Watercolours: The watercolours that they stock are, of course, all high quality - and they have the largest range of Schminke fine artists watercolours and gouache that I've seen in quite some time. Schminke are renowned for their very high pigment concentration and intense colour - a little goes a very long way. I was however staggered to see that the large Schminke watercolour tin that I have filled with half pans - as mine is - now costs £75 (that's about US$146)

Oil paints: I'm no oil painter but I do know a little about the good makes - and again, the range of oil paints that they stock is impressive - and they are one of a few places which stock Michael Harding's handmade oil colours in London. The range and quality of materials to support the oil painter also looked impressive. I've never come across Charvin Arts of Cannes before and I was intrigued to find out that this French company based on the Riviera used to supply oil paints to both Cezanne and Bonnard!

Coloured pencils: On the coloured pencils front they stock a complete range of the Lyra Rembrandt coloured pencils (artists and watercolour) in open stock. This was the point at which having my CPSA Lightfastness Workbook (see CPSA Lightfastness Test Result Workbook - Version 5 published) comes in very handy as I photocopied my completed set of pages to date so that I could take a copy out with me to find the missing colours. A high proportion of the Lyra Rembrandts pass the lightfastness test which is great as they are one of my favourite pencils. They also have Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils in open stock - but not the polychromos which was a pity. They have sets of Caran d'Ache's new lightfast brand 'Luminance' in stock - but have none in open stock. I'm going to be sending them a link to this review. My recommendation would be to think seriously about expanding their range so that they make a feature out of having a good range of high quality and lightfast pencils in open stock - from different brands - which would make them the first art shop to do this!

Pastels: They have two main brands of pastels - Unison and Sennelier which are a good combination. I was surprised that they didn't stock Schminke - and then thought about how much space that would involve! They also have Sennelier oil pastels and neocolours.

Books: They have small but interesting selection - it struck me that these had been chosen as opposed to just taking whatever came up on the latest list from the publishers. Definitely worth a look if you visit. The books are located downstairs in the basement with the canvases and easels.

Archival and specialist: They also stock a fair range of archival materials such as conservation hinging tape and archival mending tape and other specialist materials - powders, waxes, glazes, laquers. If you want something unusual in fine art supplies, the chances are that they stock it!

Rowney Mahogony
boxed set of
draughtsman materials

Antique art materials: What I wasn't expecting was to find a selection of antique art materials.

You can see photos I took through glass cases of a couple of these.

Velvotint powder paint for
tinting photographic prints

They also offer a framing service - which is a bit far for me to go - but looked interesting.

The benchmark test: The shop also stocks a huge range of other items - and I suggest you review the website to see how extensive their supplies are.

However, I have a number of items which I use as a benchmark test of how for a well stocked an art shop actually is - these are made up of items which I value and which are usually quite difficult to find. These include my Phillips chair (see In praise of my sketching chairs), Rotring Art Pen - Extra Fine (see The Rotring Art Pen), a Jakar Electric Pencil Sharpener (see Two new electric sharpeners) and Arches watercolour blocks in HP (all sizes) (I've now added a new item to my 'draft blog post list!). Green & Stone passed with flying colours on all counts. At least I'm virtually certain I saw a Phillips chair at the rear of some stock, I certainly saw other Phillips items and I also saw some very handsome alternatives plus I definitely spotted all the rest.

Green & Stone can be found towards the western end of the Kings Road. I'm guessing it's about a 10 minute walk from Sloane Square Underground Station. 'How to find us' on their website provides a good location map and directions on their website.

The shop does not have an online ordering facility - and a jolly good thing too if that means it stays exactly as it is. What they will do it take mail orders via e-mail (you can find their e-mail address on the 'how to find us' page).
Please browse through our online catalogues, then contact us, either by email, post or phone, with your requirements. We will check to see if the item(s) are in stock then contact you to arrange payment and delivery.
Green & Stone Art Materials - ordering by mail
Finally - a historical note. Interestingly the current address of the shop - 259 Kings Road - was previously run as a shop for the Womens Suffragette Movement!

Overall: I'd definitely recommend this as a fine art materials shop you must visit if you come to London. It has the same approach and quality as Cornellisen but this shop is much bigger and has more stock. It might be a little out of the way but the range and quality of the stock is extremely good - just beware of the other temptations caused by walking down the Kings Road and keep your wallet firmly in your pocket until you've visited Green & Stone first!

If anybody else has used Green & Stone please do add your own comments to mine.

I've added this review to my information site Art Supplies in the UK - Resources for Artists - which contains a poll about London Art Shops!



  1. This looks like such a wonderful shop. An absolute treasure trove. Plus it is in the most wonderful city in the world (I used to live in Egham). Thank you for sharing your photos. I really enjoyed this post.

  2. Katherine, note that the shop offers 10% discount on holders of a Royal Academy friends card

  3. I remember is great art shop from when I lived in the King's Rd in the early 1970's, I used to buy my art stuff there. I'm happy to know it still exists, even from Japan where i now live.

  4. I discovered G&S on my last visit to London, Katherine. It was enough to make me weep that I was on my way back to Australia to pack furniture for shipping to Italy and couldn't stock up. Next trip I'm taking a shopping trolley!

    This is such a beautiful visit you've taken us on - almost as good as the real thing. And it's great to have you back.

  5. Ooh, that gives me an ache of want in my stomach - next time (If/When?) I'm in London I will definitely look up G&S... but 75 pounds with our SA Rand is... sheesh!

  6. This probably qualifies as my local art shop - or did when I lived in London, and it's still the only one I tend to go to when there. The fact that it doesn't cater to the art student and graphic design market is something I found and still find hugely comforting, especially during the late seventies (when I discovered it as a teenager) art was influenced by punk and traditional skills were becoming much less important. It was like a port in a storm for me! Btw, it's quite a walk from Sloane Square, easily 20 mins but seems longer when the pavements are packed with shoppers.
    The chair is something I'm going to look out for next time, and I was also hoping they might have more colour pencil ranges (like Derwent Studios which I'd like to try). Though the paper range is good, they do lack some obvious ones - I was looking for my usual Winsor & Newton pad but they didn't stock it and had nothing similar. They had plenty of Daler Rowney but I don't remember seeing any W&N pads. That said, I always find something I 'need' there!

  7. Thanks Zichi, Robyn and Felicity - it's always good to hear other perspectives.

    I seem to recall that Derwent Studio pencils were designed for graphic artists who needed CP for illustrations which would be photographed (ie no need for them to preserve colours over time). I don't think they are lightfast - and I don't suppose there would be much likelihood of the work being done to make them lighfast.

    It's much more likely that the Derwent Artist's range will get the lightfast treatment next.

    In any case, Green & Stone don't stock them!

  8. Thanks Ilaria - I didn't realise that! Now I have a good reason to go back again!

  9. Thanks Katherine. I think maybe I have got those two (Artist's and Studio) mixed up. Will have to check out Artist's - still hunting for the Lyras you recommended.

  10. I love Green and Stone and always make a pilgrimage there when I'm in London. I was shocked to read how expensive Schmincke paints have become in the past year or so. Wow. I now buy their tubes on line, so I had no idea of the cost of their sets. Thank you for another fabulously informative post.

  11. Laura - I don't think it's the Schminke paints as such so much as buying them WITH the metal box (ie the same one as I've already got at home). I got mine many moons ago at an art materials fair - and it was expensive even then - but the paints are just so different to any other make I thought it was worth it.

  12. Thanks for a wonderful trip to an old school retailer. I want to ask if they had Harry Potter's magic wand!

    And, as an old retail dog myself, the only extra thing that I wish you'd mentioned was the square footage of the space. I know that's geeky, but it's the first thing that comes out of the retailer's mouth when describing a space.

    Maybe it's a guy thing...

  13. how I would love to browse in this shop! maybe the next best thing will be to send my sister, yesterday she left for vacation in London, she has just taken up an interest in learning how to draw so the chance of getting her there is now so much greater than before, yay!

    and thanks for your comment(s), my posts have been infrequent of late, I'm still drawing, just haven't been scanning, slowly getting back to that too.


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