Founder & Owner of
The Whistler Brush Company

(Pronunciation note: Although most Americans pronounce his first name as though it were identical to his last name - as if he were named “Lewis Lewis” - Louis Lewis pronounces his first name in the French way - so his name should be pronounced “Louie Lewis”! However - he is most amused at being called “Lewis Lewis” - and will happily answer to any reasonably polite name!)

Louis Lewis is the 90-years-young founder and owner of The Whistler Brush Company - the maker of the world’s most acclaimed faux-finish brushes. The company was founded in England in 1948 - and celebrated its Golden Anniversary in 1998.

Lewis developed his interest in brush-making almost by accident. In 1946, after leaving the Royal Air Force, he was considering a variety of career options - but had not yet decided on a path. He had a chance encounter with an old Air Force pal who had taken over a small brush-making workshop located over a garage in a suburb of London. It was a small concern - making enameling brushes. Lewis was offered the opportunity of distributing these brushes - and he took on the project partly out of curiosity.

Doing research into the market for these brushes, Lewis discovered that there was actually an enormous need in Britain for specialist brushes. In the years immediately after the Second World War, there was a large amount of work taking place to restore the huge number of historic buildings damaged during the heavy bombardment of British cities during the war.

This work called for the highest standards of specialist painting and decorating - and required brushes of the finest quality. The best brushes for this work had been made by 19th Century craftsmen - and there were few such brush-makers still alive.

Lewis discovered a few old-timers still able to make quality brushes the old-fashioned way. He spent a lot of time researching and studying the history of the decorative arts - and then decided that helping to rejuvenate this historic craft would become his life’s vocation.

In 1948 he established The Whistler Brush Company in a tiny building in Ashtead, Surrey - just south of London (very close to Epsom - home of the famous British Derby.) The company subsequently moved to London.

(Lewis chose his company name in homage to one of his favorite artists - James McNeill Whistler - creator of one of the world’s most famous paintings - the legendary Whistler's Mother. In addition to portraying his mother in oils - the gifted American artist also painted a series of evocative studies of London that Lewis particularly admired. Lewis has himself been nicknamed The Whistler - and has been portrayed as such in a widely-seen affectionate caricature by a British artist.)

Over time, Lewis sought out and developed a network of factories, workshops and craftspersons all over the world to design, create and manufacture an ever-widening range of brushes and tools for artisans, artists and decorators.

Initially drawing on faithful recreations of centuries-old designs - Lewis started to refine these brushes to match the requirements of the burgeoning field of users. He also created entirely new designs of brushes to satisfy requests from his ever-growing legions of customers.

Over the past fifty years new paints, enamels and finishes have been created - many to take account of the increased awareness of the environment - and it was necessary to design new brushes and tools with which to apply these materials.

Whistler brushes are fashioned out of the finest materials in the world. Bristles and hair are imported from China, India and Canada. Ferrules are made from nickel, steel and Italian copper. The wooden handles are crafted from beech and Honduras mahogany.

In the early 1980’s the growing interest in faux finishes suddenly exploded into a full-scale renaissance in both Britain and America. With the increasing success of schools for the decorative arts - run by master craftspersons such as America’s Isabel O’Neill and Britain’s Leonard Pardon - more and more people discovered the delights of this historic form of decor.

Having established a reputation as the “Rolls Royce” of faux finish brushes - the Whistler range became even more in-demand.

To accommodate this growing public interest in faux finishing - Lewis designed and created a special new series of Whistler brushes - priced to appeal to the enthusiastic beginner. These brushes - known as the Cadet series - have become especially popular.

Lewis has long had an affinity with the American marketplace - and indeed has found great inspiration for new designs from his frequent visits to the U.S. over the past twenty five years.

He has spent a lot of time with many of America’s leading practitioners, teachers and merchants of faux finish tools and materials - hearing what their requirements are - and incorporating suggestions into development of new brushes - and refinement of original designs.

The immense success of The Whistler Brush Company as world leaders in the manufacture of faux finish brushes has inevitably spawned imitators.

Lewis is bemused and philosophical about this ‘sincere form of flattery’ - finding wry amusement in the notion of faux versions of brushes for faux finishes!

However - he is dedicated to old-fashioned excellence in the making of his brushes - and is confident that those who wish to create the best in faux finishes will be able to tell the difference between quality hand-made tools and cheap assembly-line knock-offs. “People know that a Rolls-Royce is the best in its field and they know that a cheap imitation of a Rolls-Royce can’t and doesn’t perform the same way!”

In 1997, Lewis was rewarded for his contributions to the industry by an invitation to join the decorating world’s most prestigious association. He was made a Freeman of The Company Of Painters And Stainers - a venerable City of London Guild that originated in the 15th Century. Lewis was inducted at a special ceremony at the historic Painters’ Hall in the old City of London. Among the other distinguished inductees with Lewis, was the Director of Britain’s famous Victoria & Albert Museum - Dr. Alan Borg CBE and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff - General Sir Roger Wheeler GCB CBE ADC.


Lewis was born in the East End of London in May 1915 of Russian-Polish immigrant parents. (The East End of London was then the British equivalent of New York’s Lower East Side - and acted as an Ellis Island for those coming to England to escape persecution in less-enlightened times.)

He grew up in comparative poverty - and as was common in such circumstances during the depression - he left school to start work at the age of just 14. Before volunteering to join the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War - Lewis worked in a variety of what he describes as “dead-end jobs” including being a tailor, a ‘nailer’ and a ‘progress-chaser’ at the aircraft factory making Hurricane bombers!

Lewis now lives in Hampstead - a quaint 18th century part of north-west London long popular with artists, poets and writers. He has been married to his wife Nina for 58 years. Nina and Louis have two sons: the humorist and producer Martin Lewis - who is based in Los Angeles. And Derek Judah "Jerry" Lewis - a freelance reporter in London.

Lewis continues to be active in the running of The Whistler Brush Company. For relaxation he enjoys reading biographies - and designing new brushes.

A few years back, Lewis briefly took up painting as a hobby and recalls laboring for six weeks in an art class painting a vase of flowers. When he finally unveiled his first masterpiece to friends and family - someone remarked that the flowers were not very realistic. Lewis responded that this was intentional because the flowers portrayed were in fact artificial! However - chastened by this experience - Lewis decided to focus his abilities solely on making brushes rather than on using them!