Thursday, January 17, 2019

Vintage Colored Pencils: Conte Criterium

1/1/19 vintage Conte Criterium pencils in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

Surfing on eBay one day, I came across a colored pencil name that I hadn’t seen before: Criterium by Conté. The name Conté is best known for the art crayon invented by Nicolas-Jacques Conté in 1795 (according to Wikipedia). A friend who is knowledgeable in French pencil history told me that this set of colored pencils was a rare find, indeed. I snapped it up.

I wish I knew more about this pencil’s history, but Google didn’t offer up much (other than a mechanical pencil of the same name). The vendor did not indicate the set’s age, but my friend speculates that it could be from 1960 to 1979. For being that old, the box and its contents are in very good condition.

This color chart was enclosed in the box.

Unused, the set of 36 pencils arrived with a few broken tips but otherwise looks beautiful and nearly new. With too sharp a point, one pencil’s point snapped off during use. I think the cores are a bit brittle and delicate, perhaps from age (though from my little experience with and knowledge of vintage pencils, most colored pencils seem to age remarkably well).

The glossy, hexagonal barrels have color numbers on them but no names. I love the beautiful end caps and typeface!

Beautiful end caps!

I’ll let the beauty of the pencils speak for themselves. As for their use, they are softer than I expected them to be – most vintage pencils are on the hard side. They seem low on pigment, however, as I had some difficulty building color in my pear sketch. Even so, on Stillman & Birn Epsilon’s smooth surface, the pencils are a joy to use.

As the only French vintage colored pencils in my collection, they are a lovely addition.

1 comment:

  1. The pencils look like paintings themselves! I like the softness of the color on the pear.


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