Saturday, February 22, 2020

C Roberson & Co and an e-catalogue to drool over!

Today I was looking up a particular art material and came upon the e-catalogue of C Roberson & Co - and I started drooling alternated with reading.
Below is a REVIEW of:
  • the history of C Roberson & Co
  • art materials by C Roberson & co
  • art materials supplied by Robersons
  • an absolutely amazing e-catalogue - with supplies from some of the oldest and most prestigious suppliers of art materials
It's absolutely fascinating to trace the history and realise these are very traditional colourmen who served some of the best artists in London in the past - who would also be equally delighted by the current e-catalogue!

Roberson Oil Colours

An analysis of colours in tubes in Patrick Heron’s studio at his death showed 61 colours, out of 155, in 627 tubes, out of 790, from C. Roberson & Co Ltd, many from the mid-1960s

About C Roberson & Co

Charles Roberson & Co. were artists colourmen from 1820 until 1985 - and became one of the major firms of artists' suppliers. 
The company prepared its own paints and manufactured a wide range of materials to recipes that were kept secret and actively protected. Some of these recipes are still used today.
  • unusually they both manufacture and supply artists materials
  • associated with some reputable retailers
  • associated with many prominent artists
Among its customers were artists such as Turner, Whistler and Sargent, designers such as William Morris, William de Morgan and Walter Crane and the royal and famous including Queen Victoria, Lady Randolph Churchill and Winston Churchill. 

History of C Roberson & Co

  • Roberson was of the major artists’ suppliers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The sequence of business names is
    • Charles Roberson 1819-1828, 
    • Roberson & Miller 1828-1839, 
    • Charles Roberson 1840,
    • Charles Roberson & Co 1840-1908, 
    • C. Roberson & Co Ltd 1908-1987.
  • 1819: Charles Roberson set up at 51 Long Acre in 1820 - the premises had a history of art material suppliers - it had been used for the sale of brushes and colours since 1803, firstly by John Culbert (qv), then from 1814 by his apprentice, Henry Matley. One of his first customers was Sir Thomas Lawrence. The rationale was the area was home to a lot of artists who lived/worked there (JMW Turner was born a few streets away in Maiden Lane) and was also very near the Royal Academy of Arts which, at that time, was located in Somerset House just off The Strand.  The company stayed in the Long Acre area until 1937.
In 1821 Lawrence began patronising the young Charles Roberson (1799-1876), ‘Colourman to Artists and hair pencil maker’ and successor to Henry Matley at 54 Long Acre. Initially, Lawrence purchased materials to the value of £4.3s.6d, including Italian Pink, Venetian Lake and Vermillion in one or two ounce quantities, Italian chalk totalling six ounces and Mountain Blue, that is Azurite, totalling 19 ounces (about 550 grams); of these the Venetian Lake was the most expensive pigment at 6s an ounce (see Appendix for full transcript).
Roberson & Miller’s trade sheet (detail),
Materials for Drawing and Painting, c.1828-39.
  • 1853: they moved to 91 Long Acre
  • 1855: name changed to Charles Roberson & Co
  • 1876: Charles Roberson died - leaving a considerable personal estate of over £100,000.
  • 1908 The business became a limited company on 27 July 1908 - Charles Roberson & Co Ltd (from 1908 until 1987).
  • 1937: moved to new premises in Camden Town on 25 March 1937 
  • 1970s: sold to a distribution company
  • 1986: current independent owners (L. Cornellissen & Co.) bought the firm
The business remained in the family until the 1970s, when sold to a Dutch firm, going into liquidation in 1987 (London Gazette 29 June 1987). The name was bought by the owner of Cornelissen (qv), who continues to use it for a small range of high-quality materials (Woodcock 1995). ‘It now thrives as a trade-only supplier supplying many of the products for which the company was famous in the past’, trading as Roberson & Co
  • 1987: moved to new premises at 1A Hercules Street (Camden Town) London N7 6A
  • 2019: Moved to Scrubs Lane in West London
  • Today: Roberson continues as 
    • an art materials supplier to the trade only. 
    • a distributor for other colourmen and art materials suppliers
    • a wholesaler for various brand name products
It now thrives as a trade-only supplier supplying many of the products for which the company was famous in the past.

The Roberson Archives are now housed at Hamilton Kerr Institute - one of the world’s leading centres for teaching and research in the conservation of easel paintings.

An index to the Roberson Archive, the most complete record that survives of a 19th century artists’ colourman in the UK, was published in 1997.  The period of the archive covers 1819 to 1985.
The Index of Account Holders in the Roberson Archive 1820-1939 lists over 9,000 artists recorded in the account ledgers of the London artists' colourmen Charles Roberson & Co.
The Hamilton Institute can be browsed on-line but none of the Roberson archive is currently accessible. 

The Roberson History forms part of the history of art materials suppliers maintained by the National Portrait Gallery.

Art Materials by C Roberson & Co.

Made in the UK, many to original recipes and formulations from the 19th Century.

Roberson Liquid Drawing Inks and Liquid Gouache
These include

C Roberson & Co e-catalogue

This is a link to the Roberson's 2019 e-catalogue - which contains prices for all the products it manufactures - and supplies All you need to know is that I absolutely defy you not to drool! 

Art Materials Manufacturers included are:
  • C. Roberson and Co.
  • Russell & Chapple - London's oldest supplier of fabrics to artists and the theatre and generally regarded as the artists' canvas specialist.
  • L. Cornellissen & Co. - first listed as an artists’ colourman in 1881. Roberson are the sole distributors of their pigments. 
  • Lefranc & Bourgeoisa French manufacturer, who uses over 300 years of knowledge and experience to produce reliable, dependable products, including gold size, oil of spike lavender, siccative mediums and varnishes. (Part of the ColArt group)
  • CharbonnelEtching Inks with high pigment content and excellent covering power.  Operating from 13 quai de Montebello, Paris on the banks in front of the cathedral Notre-Dame since 1862
  • Gamblin - founded in 1980, producing luscious artist
    s non-toxic colours made with the finest grades of pigments available and are completely non-toxic. and non toxic mediums
  • Schminke - providing the very best finest artists' colours for demanding artists for four generations
  • ArtGraf and Viarco - drawing products
  • William Mitchell - calligraphy supplies
  • Pelikan - a German manufacturing company of writing, office and art equipment
  • Rohrer and Klingner - who produce inks
  • K├Âlner -who produce gilding products
This is very much a catalogue to download and keep for browsing because supplies can only be purchased via retailers - unless you create trade account!   These are their Trade Terms of Business. You can check out the retailers they supply on the website - hover your cursor over the retailers tab and then scroll


Roberson moved last year and are now located as follows:
Unit 1, 88-91 Scrubs Lane, London, NW10 6QU
Phone: +44 (0) 20-7272 0567
Fax: +44 (0) 20-7263 0212

88-91 Scrubs Lane in West London

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