View Full Version : Vintage Lefranc & Bourgeois pastels - Giraults?

03-29-2019, 07:26 AM
Hi all you collectors! I have cross-posted this in some pastel groups on Facebook.

I am about to purchase this vintage set of Lefranc & Bourgeois soft pastels (see pictures attached below). Does anyone know anything about this brand?

I have read on the official Girault Pastels website that Lefranc & Bourgeois had distributed Girault pastels between 1987 and 1995, but I am unsure if these ĎLefrancí-stamped pastels are vintage Giraults or purely the Lefranc pastel brand? Can anyone confirm, and does anyone know anything about Lefranc pastels?

Any help will be greatly appreciated! It seems hard to find information on vintage pastel sets.

A couple of additional questions:
- Would anyone know the rough date of manufacture of a set like this?
- How cautious do I need to be re: the toxicity of the pigments when using these pastels?

By the way, this is my first post on WetCanvas. I have been dabbling in artistic pursuits for most of my life, but have only gotten into pastels and collecting pastel sticks on a serious level over the past year. I read these forums every day and have learned so much from this amazing community!




Donna T
03-29-2019, 09:11 AM
Welcome to the forum cocomango! That sure is a lovely set of pastels! I have never heard of that brand and know nothing about vintage pastels but they look very much like my Girault's. Hopefully whoever is selling them can assure you that they are not oil pastels (just in case they are unaware of the difference.) As for toxicity I know nothing about that either, sorry, but I don't recall ever hearing that vintage pastels are more toxic than contemporary versions. I always assume that the same pigments have been used over the years to create the different colors but I'm obviously lacking on my knowledge of how they are made. You can always use gloves or finger cots and wear a high-quality mask when you work with pastels if you are concerned. There are air filtration units available specifically for artists. I don't have one and imagine they are quite expensive but probably worth it for those with respiratory issues. If you are new to pastels I'll just advise that you never blow off any dust indoors. Most of us take our paintings outdoors, flip them over and smack the boards they are attached to several times to dislodge any loose particles. I hope someone else has some answers for you and best of luck with the "new" set if you buy it!

03-29-2019, 09:29 AM
Welcome! In all my years here on Wetcanvas, I have never heard of Lefranc pastels, so if I had to guess (and it just a guess) than I would say that your research has revealed the most likely scenario - that these are Giraults distributed by Lefranc.

In regards to toxicity, I would be more careful with a vintage set than a current set of pastels. Most (but not all) current pastel makers do not use cadmiums and many of the more toxic heavy metal pigments in their pastels, but I can not say if this was always true. There is a much greater awareness and concern about toxicity today that was not there in decades past. But as Donna has mentioned, there are ways to protect yourself while painting, the most obvious being wearing a dust mask.


03-31-2019, 03:19 AM
Thanks so much, Donna and Don, for your replies and for making me feel so welcome to the forum. I really appreciate your input! Thank you as well for the advice regarding the precautions I should take to keep myself safe from harm when handling potentially toxic pastel pigments.

I received the vintage Lefranc pastels today and have now swatched all of the colours (which took around three hours!) The set has been hardly used and is in great condition. There were 225 sticks in the box, and I paid AUD $350 for the set, which I feel is quite reasonable compared to prices in my country.

I bought them from a seller whose father was an oil painter. He believes they are around 5-6 decades old, but I think they might be from the 1940s or 1950s, based on my online research. He informed me that his father had an exhibition in France, and might have purchased them during that trip, but he had never produced any works in purely pastel. The artist has possibly used the pastels to mix them with other media, perhaps even printing inks, as he was a printer by trade, but his primary artistic medium was oils.

The pastels are laid on cardboard and cotton wool within the wooden box rather than foam, which suggests they are quite old. Does anyone know when foam inserts replaced the old cotton wool presentation style?

The pigments are very rich and the texture is very fine - not too soft, and not too hard. I donít believe they are Giraults, as a comparison with my small set of modern Giraults revealed that the Lefrancs are slightly fatter and longer than the Girault sticks. However, I tested a few sticks on a sample of Sennelier La Carte paper and found that it is possible to achieve similar strokes with the Lefrancs that are comparable to that which can be achieved with the Giraults (sharp, fine, and precise). Although, there is some variation between the Lefranc sticks in terms of softness and hardness across colours. I guess I would place them somewhere in between Giraults and Unisons in terms of softness, based on my experience with about a dozen pastel brands.

I have e-mailed Colart (the company that Ánow distributes Lefranc & Bourgeois), with the pictures and details of my vintage set in the hope of getting some more information about this vintage set. Hopefully I will receive a reply soon!

When I swatched the colours, I noticed a few Lead, Chrome, Cadmium, and Alizarin labels in the names of the colours - are these the ones I need to be particularly careful with? Is there any definitive list of especially toxic pigments that I should be aware of?

03-31-2019, 11:34 AM
I hope you get an answer regarding the history of your sticks. I have no idea when they began using foam, but I am old and have never seen cotton wool used in a pastel box! And if they are that old, then LeFranc could have been making their own sticks or they still could be Giraults as there is no doubt that the size and formulation of the pastels would almost certainly have changed over this much time. Or they could be almost any brand that was distributed by LeFranc.

I am generally not a toxicity fanatic, but I would never use any art material with lead in it. I know that Cadmiums made today are much safer as they are not as soluble in the body, but anything older than 20 years or so I would be more cautious with. Most often, toxic pigments are most toxic in their pure pigment form - which is a concern only when making your own pastels or paints. The other time when they are dangerous is when they are ingested, so make sure you do not use them near food and drink and make sure your hands are clean before handling food and drink. Chrome is another of the heavy metals, but again, if you don't ingest I wouldn't worry too much.

I should say, I am certainly not an expert on toxic materials, so if you have concerns I would try and do a bit more research. Not sure, but lead may be one of the very few materials that is absorbed through the skin. If so, another reason not to use the lead pastels.

Blue Earth pastels is one of the pastel makers that does use Cadmiums and other heavy metals. Here is a link to their health and safety page:


And a more scientific study:



03-31-2019, 04:47 PM
Hi:) I also have these pastels. I bought mine used about 35+ years ago and they were old then. I have close to 500 of them. They came loose in 2 shoe boxes so I've never known if I had a full set or not...I do have alot of duplicates, but do have at least 200 different colors.

I hope you find out more of the history, I love stuff like this...

Like my other stick pastels (and oil paints), I only use these outside as to be careful with the dust issue...and my lead ones are kept up in plastic ziplock bags when not in use.