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 Alice de Boton  (1906 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: California/Missouri / Israel/Mexico      Known for: encaustic on canvas-portraits

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Ad Code: 4
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
"Centenarian's art doubles as visual diary"

Columbia Missourian
Alice de Boton's encaustic paintings have earned her international fame.
Sunday, December 24, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:29 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008


Alice de Boton relaxes and swaps anecdotes with her daughter, Aline Kultgen, in the living room of her third-floor apartment at The Terrace Retirement Community, where for more than a decade she has risen each morning and worked tirelessly on her art. A dozen or so portraits and landscapes line the walls, a small sample of the art that has earned her an international reputation.

De Boton turns 100 on Christmas Day. The Terrace, where de Boton moved in 1993 after the death of her husband, Robert, invited relatives and friends to celebrate the milestone Friday and to view some of her art.

Even as she nears 100, painting remains de Boton’s passion. She loves vivid colors, and she’s become an expert at encaustic painting, an ancient technique dating to the fifth century B.C., when beeswax was used for practical and artistic purposes. The encaustic method employs a mixture of pigment and molten beeswax that has to be heated before it can be applied to a painting surface, usually prepared wood. The artist then passes a heating element over the color until the individual brush or palette marks fuse into a uniform film.

In Greek, encaustic means “burning in.” The method was used by ancient Greeks to decorate ships and to create icons. The Egyptians also used encaustic painting to do mummy portraits.
Although de Boton concedes the method can pose great challenges, she appreciates the colors, texture and luminosity it produces.

“I just like it,” de Boton said. “It appealed to me, and I started to experiment with it, and over the past 25 years, I developed new techniques.”

De Boton says she is one of a few encaustic painters in Columbia today. Karsten Ewald, interim director of the Columbia Art League, agrees.

“It’s a very involving process,” he said. “It is not an instant process, and it takes time to complete. I think lots of younger artists don’t have the patience to deal with it.”

De Boton has had numerous exhibits in U.S. museums and galleries and received multiple awards, including the degree of honor from the San Francisco-based Society of Western Artists. She is a member of many art associations, and her encaustic paintings can be found in many private collections in the United States, Mexico and Israel.

“My mom is quite something,” Kultgen said.

De Boton has also had several solo exhibits at the Terrace and at local galleries. Some of her work is on display at the Columbia Art League now. And the entire third-floor west wall of the retirement home is devoted to her paintings.

“Residents and visitors of The Terrace appreciate viewing Alice’s artwork in the hallway where she lives,” said Ginny Edgar, marketing director of The Terrace. “I enjoy seeing her encaustic paintings for the uniqueness of the vivid flowing colors. Alice is so varied in the type of paintings she does. She has such wonderful abilities to do paintings about social issues” as well as “landscapes and portraits.”

De Boton thinks of her paintings as a kind of visual diary, a way for her to search for better understanding of her thoughts and feelings. It is that expressive nature, and her tenacity as an artist, that has made admirers of people such as Ewald.

“I really love it,” Ewald said. “She has a great sense of color, and her artwork is very expressive and emotionally charged. I think it’s just wonderful that she is 100 years old and still doing it. She is an inspiration to all artists.”

Born in Jaffa, Palestine, before Israel’s statehood, de Boton’s introduction to art began during her childhood when she started using a box of paints someone had given her sister, Marguerite.  She spent her early years in Palestine and Egypt, then her family relocated to France, where she started looking for an opportunity to study art. But relatives and friends discouraged her, arguing art would not be lucrative.

“No one thought highly of arts, so I studied chemistry,” she said.

Her ambitions were also cut short by World War II. “When the Germans invaded France, everyone left Paris,” she said. “We ended up in Marseille for a year and later on a farm. I was too preoccupied by the war to paint.”

Her brother, Yves, was arrested, jailed and killed by the Germans, she said. After the war, her family decided to immigrate to the United States. They boarded a liberty boat in Belgium and headed for Houston in 1947.

They later moved to California, where de Boton saw an opportunity to nurture her talent. She opened a school of fine arts in San Mateo, Calif., where she worked with several renowned artists. She sold the school in 1957 and moved to Berkeley, Calif., to open her own gallery. Later the de Botons went to Mexico and, finally, they came to Columbia to settle down.
Still, de Boton thinks of her homeland and keeps in touch with her relatives in Israel. She longs for peace in the region. Painting remains an important outlet for her emotions.

“My artwork has been shaped by my immigrant experience,” she said, “as well as by my sense of social justice.”

The Missourian

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is the obituary of the artist by Kerri Reynolds from Columbia, Missouri,

People might remember Alice de Boton for her artwork, but for 103 years she lived a life as colorful as her paintings.  De Boton died Friday, April 10, 2010, at The Bluffs.  She was born December 25, 1906, in Jaffa, Palestine – now Israel – to David and Reyna de Boton.  Her early life was spent in Palestine and Egypt.

In her twenties, Mrs. de Boton decided to go to Paris to study art.  There, she switched her degree to what she considered more practical studies, first chemistry and later law.  In 1939, she married Jean Robert Bernard.  During World War II, Mrs. de Boton and her husband took refuge in unoccupied France where they joined the resistance along with her brother, Yves. Y ves was killed by the Nazis, and Mrs. de Boton took in his daughter Aline, whom she later adopted.

When the war was over, the couple came to the United States, and Alice was able to renew her passion for art.  She founded the Peninsula Arts and Crafts school in San Mateo, California.  When Mrs. de Boton's husband retired in 1969, they moved to Ajijic, Mexico — then Yucca Valley, Calif. — and finally Tel Aviv and Arrad, in Israel.  In 1989, the de Botons came to Columbia to join their daughter.

Mrs. de Boton dedicated most of her life to her art.  She practiced in several mediums, eventually settling into encaustics.  Encaustic painting is a technique of mixing pigment with wax and crystal and then burning it into the painting surface. De Boton once wrote: "I believe that my inner feelings are somehow communicated to the canvas through this technique.  For years, I have tried to express my ideas and social comments on canvas, but the results have always been disappointing – not real reflections of my thoughts.  I feel that through the medium of encaustic paintings, I am coming closer to my goal. "To me, the most appealing feature of the process is the flowing, unpredictable blending of the colors that takes place. Very exciting, even bizarre forms are created – forms which cannot be executed in a deliberate, calculated way."

Mrs. de Boton is survived by her daughter, Aline Kultgen of Columbia; two grandchildren, Rachel Hall of Rochester, N.Y., and Daniel Hall of Columbia; four great-grandchildren, Maude, Elly, Kate and Keaton; three nephews, David Chazan of Palo Alto, Calif., Dan Chazan of Haifa and Dody de Boton; and two nieces, Lely Binshtok of Tel Aviv and Leore Shklarsh. Her husband, Robert; two sisters, Rosa and Marguerite; and her two brothers, Yves and Ygael, died earlier. Memorial contributions can be made to the Columbia Art League, 207 S. Ninth St. in Columbia. -- Kerri Reynolds

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