Years in business: 130+
The Blockx company was founded by the Belgium chemist Jacques Blockx in the 1860’s. His artist friends coerced him to make a selection of paints for their use. Blockx watercolors come in two versions: the original honey-rich colors or ‘moist’ variety have a black cap. Those made with a more conventional formula have a white cap.
Sizes available: 5ml, 15ml, and some pans.
Go to Website: Blockx (Belgium)
Years in business: 200+
In late 18th century England, with the declining taste for wearing wigs impacting their wig powder business, Thomas and Richard Rowney sought out a new business opportunity. Thus, in London the Rowney brothers found themselves preparing and selling artists’ colors in the year 1783.
The company’s reputation for quality grew, and by the 1800s such famous artists as Constable and J.M. Turner were using their colors.
After Thomas’ son George Rowney took over the business he branched out to producing varnishes and lithgraphic printing. He worked closely with J.M. Turner and became the offical lithographer for Turner’s famous paintings.
The company has maintained close links with artists and fine art schools and academies while developing and improving their product lines.
In 1963 Rowney released their Cryla acrylic artists’ color line and have been pioneers in developing the acrylic market in Europe.
In 1983 Rowney was aquired by the Dorset-based Daler Board Company. In 1946 Daler Board originally produced artists’ prepared card board, an inexpensive alternative to canvas. They grew into a world leader of prepared artists’ surfaces and mountboard for picture framing.
Ken Daler, one of the original founders, serves as Daler-Rowney’s chariman. Jim Daler, son of co-founders Mary and Terry Daler serves as managing director.
In early 1988 Daler-Rowney opened it’s New Jersey sales and distribution division to serve the US and Canada. In 1990 Daler-Rowney aquired Steig, the United State’s leading manufacturer of graphic inks.
In 1994 Daler-Rowney purchased Robert Simmons, the leading US manufacturer of art and craft brushes. Robert Simmons began hand-crafting brushes in 1952 in Manhattan, producing their first line of brushes, Signet, specifically for oil painters. In the 1970’s Robert Simmons developed the white sable, the first synthetic artists’ brush in the US.
Daler-Rowney’s own tradition for constructing mostly hand-crafted artists’ brushes continues in Dartmouth, Devon, England.
Daler-Rowney supplies art materials in over 92 countries, world-wide.
Sizes available: Artists’ Quality ( 5ml tubes, 1/2 and whole pans) and the student-grade Georgian (8ml tubes, 1/2 pans)
Go to Website: Daler Rowney
Years in business: Coming soon
Go to Website: Daniel Smith Artist Materials Co.
Years in business: 20+
Established in 1975, this family owned California company has a heritage of producing paints, 60 years to Northern Italy. Their product lines include “First Quality” Artists’ Oil Colors (56 colors) and student grade “Leonardo” Artists’ Oil colors (28 colors), and “First Qulaity” Artists’ Acrylic Colors (28 colors).
Da Vinci sells both transparent and designer gouache opaque watercolor. Their “First Quality” Transparent Water Colors are available in 56 colors, each labeled for lightfastness, composition, and health consideration. All colors are made with permanent pigments with lighfastness ratings of I (excellent) or II (very good). The Designer’s Gouache line of 28 opaque colors are non-toxic and include only three colors lightfast rated at III (non-permanent, colors can fade).
Sizes available: “First Quality” Transparent Water Colors in 37ml (1.25 oz.) tubes.
Go to Website: DaVinci Paints
Years in business: 90+
M. Grumbacher Inc., was founded by the Austrian immigrant Max Grumbacher in 1903 as an importer of brushes for fine art, sign and scenery painting. He incorporated in 1905 and set up a factory and showroom in New York and began to import and distribute artists’ color manufactured by Schmincke Company of Dusseldorf, Germany.<
In the late 1920’s Grumbacher secured the license to manufacture Schmincke products in the United States. They produced their first catalog and became the first mass distributor of art materials in North America.
Over the next decade Grumbacher developed new product lines including casein colors and Grumbacher CEL colors for animated cartoon artwork. The CEL colors became the indusry standard and were used to produce artwork for such Walt Disney films as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Fantasia.
In 1938 Grumbacher bought the trademarks and manufacturing rights for Schmincke Artist’s Colors.
During World War II Grumbacher supplied the government with graphic design products and experimented with camouflage color for warships. Grumbacher, at this time owned and managed by the late Max’s nephews, also participated in setting up the first U.S. commercial standard for professional grade artists’ colors.
After the war Grumbacher added to its product line by marketing artist’s paper in pads and blocks as well as stretched canvas and stretcher bars. The company then eliminated the Schmincke name on all American-made products and continued to use the trade names Academy, Gainsborough and Mussini.
In 1962 they introduced new Hyplar Acrylic colors perfecting their formula by 1966.
Grumbacher manufactured the specially designed brushes used by the Apollo lunar astronauts to take dust samples on the moon in 1969.
By the 1970’s Grumbacher was producing over 16 million tubes of color each year and began shipping to large regional distributors as well as individual art material stores.
In 1978 Grumbacher was purchased by Times Mirror Corporation, a Los Angeles, California publishing concern, and the company’s shipping and finished goods warehouse was relocated to Cranbury, New Jersey.
After computerizing in the early 1980’s the company began the first toxicological studies of its products.
Throughout the 1980’s Grumbacher was bartered and sold several times: in 1985 Times Mirror sold it to Brentwood Associates, a California based venture capitalist group. Brentwood merged Grumbacher with Chartpak and Pan Hold to form C.P.G. International. In 1989 C.P.G. International sold Grumbacher to the Berol Corporation, a manufacturer of Prismacolor pencils and writing instruments. Berol stabilized Grumbacher and initiated repackaging and relabeling as well as developing new products such as Alkyd Painting Medium and Max Grumbacher Oil Colors, a water mixable oil paint.
In 1992 Koh-I-Nor purchased M. Grumbacher, Inc. and set about reestablishing the high-quality Max Grumbacher name in the marketplace. Now Koh-I-Nor is a leading manufacturer and distributor of creative materials, including Grumbacher fine artist materials, Accent craft products, Koh-I-Nor technical products and Rotring fine writing instruments. The company was founded over 200 years ago and is headquartered in Bloomsbury, New Jersey.
Sizes available: Finest Professional Artists’ Watercolor (5.3ml or 16ml tubes) and student-grade Academy Watercolors (7.4ml tubes)
Go to Website: Grumbacher Artist Materials
Years in business: 95+
Based in Osaka, Japan, Holbein was formed in 1900.
Sizes available: 5ml and 15ml tubes.
Go to Website: Holbein.co.jp
LeFranc & Bourgeois (France)
Go to Website: LeFranc & Bourgeois
Go to Website: Lukas America
Years in business: 18+
M. Graham was founded in 1992 by Art Graham, formerly Director for Marketing for Grumbacher. Honey is used in M. Graham watercolors to keep the colors moist and they have a higher pigment level than most competitors.
Sizes available: 0.5 oz (15 ml) tubes
Go to Website: MGraham.com
Go to Website: Maimeri.it
Years in business: 95+
In 1899 Martin Talens started marketing watercolors and drawing inks in the Dutch town of Apeldoorn. The family based company produces Rembrandt Artists’ Watercolor (72 colors in 5ml tubes, 17ml tubes and pans) and student-grade Talens Aquarelle, or Water Color, (36 colors in 8ml tubes). They also market the Van Gogh student-grade line of paints.
Go to Website: Royal Talens
Makers of Koi and Fantasia watercolors and Gellyroll pens.
Go to Website: Sakura of America
Years in business: 110+
The family business Gustave Sennelier started in 1887 is currently run by his grandson, Dominique Sennelier. Sennelier watercolors are produced in 80 colors.
Sizes available: 3.5ml, 8.5ml tubes and 1/2 pans.
Go to Website: Sennelier.fr
Years in business: 115+
Herman Schmincke and Josef Horadam started the company in 1881 and it is currently run by their descendants.
Their factory, near Düsseldorf produces Artist Quality Horadam watercolors available in 5ml and 15ml tubes and poured (not dry-pressed) 1/2 and whole pans.
Go to Website: Schmincke Artist Materials
Van Gogh (Talens, Holland)
See Rembrandt listing.
Go to Website: Royal Talens
Years in business: 160+
William Winsor and Henry Charles Newton founded Winsor & Newton in 1832. They were the first company to publish a full list of colors rating composition in permanence (1892).
They manufacture two lines of colors: Artist Quality (5ml and 14ml tubes, 1/2 and whole pans) and the student-grade Cotman watercolors (8ml (USA) and 21ml tubes).
Go to Website: Winsor & Newton
Go to Website: Yasutomo
Years in business: 60+
Fostport, Inc. was founded in February 1993 by Mr. James Foster and Dr. Igor Portiansky to introduce Russian manufactured art supplies to the world market. With the demise of the Soviet Union the Russian market has opened to allow export of art materials that were previously available only to those who belonged to the Artist’s Union in Russia.
Russian art supply manufacturers always worked for art unions. They responded to a customer base solely interested in function and not superficial marketing gimmicks.
Yarka’s St. Petersburg Paint factory has been in operation since 1934 as a cooperation between the “St. Petersburg Artists’ Paint Plant” and the Academy of Art and the Russian Artists’ union. They hand-manufacture a color range of 24 colors of professional quality liquid-poured, semi-moist, full pans in sets and open stock.
Fostport reports that European artists receiving gifts from fellow Russian artists consider St. Petersburg watercolors the finest in the world. All pigments are manufactured in a 100+ year-old factory by colormen with over 40 years experience each.
The factory that manufactures Yarka brushes is located close to the western edge of Siberia. They purchase directly from fur trappers in Siberia for first choice of their Kolinsky sable and Siberian squirrel hair needed for constructing their hand-crafted brushes.
Sizes available: 24 color full pan set in a plastic paint box, a 12 pan sample set is available through special offers.