I received this gorgeous set of pastels for my birthday, and I have almost finished my first painting using them. Overall, I really like this set, and thought it might be helpful to post a review.
The Sennelier brand was created when Gustave Sennelier, a chemist by trade, opened his first shop in Paris in 1887. His soft pastel line was introduced in 1900 at the request of Edgar Degas. From that time to the current day, Sennelier pastels have been made by hand, and dried for four weeks, using only the finest pigments - with no fillers added. The Sennelier soft pastels come in a range of 525 shades, being sold in sets or as individual sticks. In addition to the full size sticks (2 1/2 inches long by 1/2 inch in diameter), they are also available as half sticks (1 1/4 inches long by 5/8 inch in diameter), and La Grande size (approximately the size of 8 standard sticks). The half sticks are sold without a wrapper and are thicker than the standard sticks, to create added strength. They are a great way to sample more colors for less money. They also save those of us who just tear off the wrappers and break our sticks in half anyway, the trouble of doing so. They are a good size for nice broad strokes using the side of the stick.
My impressions of this set are mostly very good, with one (rather large) complaint. The colors are rich, beautiful and luscious. Every time I sit down with them I fall in love with the colors all over again. It is also, in my opinion, a very good selection of colors - flexible and well suited to a variety of landscapes. For the most part (you can hear my complaint on it's way here!) the texture is wonderful. They are very soft and have that creamy feeling that pastel artists love.
The problem is this: they are inconsistent. I seem to be running into trouble most often with the very dark colors. Some of them are too hard or kind of grainy - to the point of being scratchy. This is a big problem for me and I don't even like to use the sticks that behave this way. There have only been a few this bad in my set of 80 colors, so it is not something that makes me regret buying them, but it is surprising, given the quality of the majority of the colors. The other thing to keep in mind is that some of them are quite crumbly. They need a gentle hand. This is, in my experience, typical of very soft pastels - but I still thought it was worth mentioning.
Overall, I would definitely buy the set again. In the future I will probably purchase them individually, in order to avoid the problem sticks. But starting out with the set was very useful and I am enjoying them a great deal. Below is a progress photo of the beginning stages of the painting that I am currently working on - using exclusively this set.