Artist and entrepreneur Roy Thompson founded Pro Arte in 1973 with an ambition to make and sell the best brushes in the world. Thanks to the subsequent help of his son, Peter, he has, by wide aclaim today, largely succeeded.
‘Largely’ is a reminder that this process will always be ongoing. New materials, suggest new techniques and tools. Pro Arte have an enviable record of collaboration with artists in developing them.
It was ever thus. Natural hair, particularly sable, is subject to the habitat and climatic environment in which the animal lives. As this varies, so does the ability to produce the best brush products.
Driven by such disappointing inconsistency, 30 years ago Pro Arte investigated sythetic alternatives. After painstaking Research and Development they came up with a breakthrough using a polyester filament. It changed brushmaking forever and Pro Arte distinguished this new brush with a black handle, tipped it with gold and named it Prolene.
It was, and still is, exciting to be able to mimic the characteristics of pure sable with its wonderful spring and colour holding power. The illusion continues when you look at the sable coloured filament but ends happily when you find they cost a lot less and last much longer.
Pro Arte’s next development started from a ‘what if?’. Why not try a mix of the two; synthetic and sable? We did. First results were not encouraging but persistance paid off. Once we had the exact mix it worked wonderfully well, combining the best of both worlds. The resulting Connoisseur brushes with their black handles identified by magenta and white tips, have an enthusiastic following.
Meanwhile development of Prolene continued and a more refined version was born with laquered wood handles and lovely gold ferrules - a delight to see as many have found.We named them Prolene Plus.
From the outset Pro Arte have offered Chinese Hog brushes to oil painters but the rising popularity and diversity of Acrylic painting demanded something different. Could there be a sythetic solution? Pro Arte found one with a material called Taklon. Tests showed it to be full of strength and have a feel and spring unrivalled by anything else on the market. It was already a rich brown colour so a new brush with short rosewood handles was born and named Acrylix.
Their approval was followed by a demand from oil and acrylic easel painters for a long handled version. We happily responded by developing another variant choosing white nylon filaments and mounting them in long silver laquered handles aptly named Sterling Acrylix. They have been received with universal approval for their sheer versatility in any media.
Of course there are still traditionalists who, for their own reasons, prefer pure sable. Lower volumes of these, as a result of the increased sales of Prolene, enabled us to source enough high quality sable at very favourable prices. It seemed fitting that using this, we design a brush which pays homage to the past. From this idea Renaissance sables were created and they are a joy to see and use with handles finished in British Racing Green and topped with gold plated ferrules.
We rejoice at the way our business has grown with a big shift to use synthetic brush filaments rather than traditional animal hair. We are conservationists at heart but know you can seldom improve on nature. Judging from our sales analysis, it looks like we have!