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Ochre Conservatory

The Ochre and Colour Conservatory

The old Mathieu Ochre Factory, formerly managed by Camille Mathieu, an ochre worker and Mayor of Roussillon for over 30 years, has been renovated and turned into a cultural cooperative on the subject of colour.

The conservatory proposes guided visits on the subjects of how ochre is formed, ochre geology, the entire ochre heritage in and around Roussillon, and many other practical subjects relating to colour.
There are classes and workshops taught by specialists in the fields of paint, coatings, renderings and other art and decoration techniques. Learn all about the art and manner of using natural pigments and earth colours.

The Conservatory is open all year and offers classes for adults and children during school periods and school holidays.

For information: tel / fax




Roussillon in the late 18th century

Between 1780 and 1785, Jean Etienne Astier rediscovered the properties inherent in the yellow and red earth in his region. He brought to light the precious shades and colour-fast nature of the natural colours.

In 1790 the Town Council authorised Astier to use the village olive oil mill for his work. Despite many setbacks, his business grew steadily. In 1810 there are references to two factories outside of Roussillon, and one plant in the village.

Also in 1810, the villagers lodged a complaint about the nuisance arising from his ochre work: "Sieur Astier, ochre maker in Roussillon, encumbers the public roads with the sand that he piles in the street near the Hospice. He pollutes the atmosphere, discards the fines near the home of Mr. Teissier, which, at the slightest breath of wind, raises great dust which invades the entire neighbourhood, inside the homes and the water reservoirs and causes prejudice to the inhabitants”.

In the following years, over one hundred quarries and twenty-five ochre factories sprang up in the Apt area. In the winter, local farmers earned income by extracting the ochre on their farmlands and bringing it to the factories. In the 20th century, the two world wars and the development of the chemical industry led to the decline of the ochre activities which had put Roussillon in contact with the world over.

Today, the village of Roussillon is proud to welcome the visitors drawn by the beauty of the village and its magnificent ochre heritage.