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 Jan B. Balet  (1913 - 2009)

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Lived/Active: Germany/Switzerland      Known for: illustration, genre

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Ad Code: 4
Jan B Balet
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

The following biographical information has been provided by Marie & Peter Balet. Peter is the son of the artist; Marie is the daughter-in-law, Peter’s wife.

Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland -- Artist, Jan B. Balet, died on Saturday, January 31, 2009.  Born in Bremen, Germany on July 20, 1913 he was schooled in Friedichshafen and Munich.  He attended schools of arts and crafts in Munich and Berlin and spent several years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.  After traveling throughout Europe he left Germany in 1938 in protest to the Hitler regime and immigrated to New York City as a free-lance artist.  While living in NYC he was the art director for Mademoiselle and Seventeen.  He was also well-known for his illustrations in various magazines, including Vogue, Good Housekeeping, and House and Garden.  He did work for Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and many other shops.  He has written and illustrated many children’s books including What Makes an Orchestra, Joanjo, Amos and the Moon, Ned, Ed and the Lion, The Five Rollatinis, Ladismaus, Das Geschenk, Der König und der Besenbinder, Der Zaun, Ein Skizzenbuch, Katzen-Skizzen, Skizzen-Paare, and Paris-Skizzen.  He has also illustrated many books including Rumpelstiltskin, Bean Blossom Hill and Papa Pompino.  He received many Gold Medals, Awards of Merit and Certificates of Excellence for his children’s books and graphic arts exhibits.  His ads for Lees Carpets won an Award for Distinctive Merit from the Art Directors Club of New York.  While in NY he had a residence and studio in NYC and a summer home in Long Island.  He traveled throughout North America in his own plane.

In 1965 he moved back to Munich,Germany  then La Landell, France.  In 1978 he made his home in Estavayer-le-Lac, Switzerland where he continued to paint and produce masterful lithographs which are fancied all around the world.  For the past thirty years he has had many successful expositions throughout Europe.  He has also been cited in many publications and books including American Artist, Vogue, Schöner Wohnen, Masters of Naïve Art, and Die Naiven der Welt.

Balet’s works are in permanent museum collections in the United States and Europe, including the Stadt Museum in Munich, the Regierungspräsidium in Tübingen, the Kunsthalle in Bremen and the Langenargen Museum in Bodensee.

Though often described as a “contemporary primitive” or “naïve” artist because of the simple stylized appearance of his work, Balet referred to himself as “a sophisticated primitive.”  His works exhibit a dry wit and refreshingly candid, satirical view of life.  Droll yet charming, enchanting yet dark, Balet’s works are the perfect marriage of nostalgic yearning and slightly rueful knowledge.   Throughout all his works is the force of human nature which is humorous but insightful.  Balet said he drew inspiration from both ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian art.  Brought up by his maternal grandparents, Balet evokes the era of these people, the most important figures of his formative years. 

In the business and among his peers Jan Balet was known as a cartoonist or a ‘decorative’ illustrator who worked in a ‘humorous’ style.  American Artist magazine called his work “graphic whimsy.”  One gentleman wrote: “He was a great person to know, with an honest, salty sense of humor which one sees in his artworks.”  He was an avid collector of folk art in all its forms from painting to sculpture, metalwork, weaving, pottery and music. 


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