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by Karys McEwen (subscribe)
Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
Published May 25th 2011
L Cornelissen & Son was established way back in 1855 and astoundingly has been trading in London as an artists' material supplier ever since. Not a lot has changed in this enchanting shop where soaring shelves stretch to the ceiling covered with hefty glass jars of pigments and pastels and paintbrushes hang in bunches along the wall.

The shop is known in London and indeed throughout the world as a specialist niche purveyor of art materials from premises that a 19th century artist might be familiar with. The unique shop front offers its wonderful services from very traditional surroundings. It's worth popping in even just to get a glimpse of the distinctive interior and to take in the musty smells of the time-honoured Victorian ambience.

A favourite in the most exclusive of art circles as well as among serious emerging artists, L Cornelissen & Son is inspirational in that it hasn't made that sad but often inevitable jump onto the tacky crafts bandwagon with more modern, faddish products. Rather, it has strictly persisted to be a true artist's haven for the best quality pigments, oils, pastels and brushes. Despite this, they hold a stock of items that will do well to rival the volume of materials in any modern store. The inventory really is colossal, and boasts over 20,000 products which includes brushes, paints, calligraphy equipment, gold leaf and other decorative items, paper and a small but thoughtful selection of books and texts. The selection of easels is particularly breath-taking. With this they are able to meet the majority of art needs and requirements.

Everything in the store is very well organised, but if you are unable to locate the paint you are after however, the friendly but discreet assistants will be able to help you without qualms. They will even go as far as giving you tips on application or providing you with details about stockists who have even rarer brands, if need be.

L Cornelissen & Son offers a worldwide mail order service for all the thousands of specialist products that they supply. They will soon be upgrading their website in order to provide an ordering service for all customers, from well-established artists to budding art students.

If you consider yourself a budding Van Gogh then this is your mecca. And for those less talented in the visual arts, it is surely worth a pop in.
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Why? Regardless of whether you are a sucker for art supply shops or not, L Cornelissen & Son will take your breath away.
When: 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm Saturday
Where: 105A Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3RY (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn, Goodge Street)
Cost: Free
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