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 Paula Himmelsbach Balano  (1877 - 1967)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania / Germany      Known for: stained-glass design, portrait, crafts

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Paula Himmelsbach is primarily known as Paula Himmelsbach Balano

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Paula Himmelsbach Balano
An example of work by Paula Himmelsbach
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The following is from Stephanie Strass:

Born in 1877 in Leipzig, Germany, Paula Himmelsbach spent much of her life in Pennsylvania. She studied at the PAFA and in New York with William Merritt Chase, Cecilia Beaux and Walter Appleton Clark and with Alphonse Mucha in Paris.

She was awarded the PAFA Travel Scholarship in 1900. She also spent three summers in Greece, and it was probably there that she met her husband Cosme Balano. They married in 1916 (and later divorced) and had one child, born in 1918.

Paula Balano exhibited at the Boston Art Club, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Plastic Club in Philadelphia, and The Society of Independent Artists. She was a member of a number of organizations, including The Plastic Club, National Association of Women Artists, the Washington Art Club and the Philadelphia Watercolor Club..

Balano opened a portrait studio in Philadelphia and later, in 1925, opened a stained glass studio, first in Philadelphia and later in Germantown, Pennsylvania. She was a teacher at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women from 1910-1934. One of her students was Alice Neel, who remembered Balano as her favorite teacher. She also taught stained glass art at the Conshohocken Art League. Many of her stained glass creations can still be found in the Philadelphia Area. Few of her paintings have come to light.

Paula Balano retired in 1959 and died in 1967 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

Periodicals include:

"Paula Himmelsbach Balano (1877-1967): First Lady of American Stained
Glass," by Karen Price, Germantown (Pennsylvania) Crier, Spring 2000
The following, submitted January 2005, is from Karen Price, author of the above cited article.

Paula Balano was born January 10th, 1877 in Liepzig, Germany to John and Francesca Himmelsbach. Francesca Himmelsbach was a gifted artist as well.

Balano was educated at Friends Central School, attended Drexel Institute, and from there went on to The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She became the second woman to receive a travelling scholarship from the Academy, which allowed her to go to Paris.

While there, she studied under Alphonse Mucha and Leandro Garrido.

She later studied in Philadelphia and New York with William Merrrit Chase, Walter Appleton Clark, and Cecilia Beaux.

Balano spent three summers painting in Greece. In 1916 she won the Shillard Gold Medal for Water Color for a painting of the Acropolis.

As an artist, Paula Balano is best known for her Stained Glass. She apprenticed under Nicola D'Ascenzo, where she designed the windows for Valley Forge Chapel. When D'Ascenzo refused to let Balano fabricate her own designs, she quit and began her own studio. Balano became the first woman to design and fabricate her own designs, in her own studio, under her own name.

Some of her largest and or best known stained-glass projects include, "St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church "; Broad Street, Philadelphia (windows now removed); St. Anthony Roman Catholic in Wilmington, Delaware; Ascension of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church, Westmoreland and 5th Streets in Philadelphia, PA; and Christ Church - Old Swede's, 740 River Road, Swedesburg PA.

Important affiliations include The Plastic Club of Philadelphia, 247 S. Camac Street in Philadelphia, a meeting place for women artists only. Other well known members include Cecilia Beaux, Violet Oakely, Beatrice Fenton, and Annie Lee Willet, wife of William Willet, founder of Willet Stained Glass Studios.

Balano was a life long friend of Elsa Koenig Nitzche - The Paperboy . When Nitzche died, Balano designed and installed two memorial windows in her honor at Germantown Unitarian Church on Lincoln Drive in Philadelphia. These consists of six panels, located at the North and South entrances to the church.

Her stained glass windows are remarkable and easily identifiable by her use of saturated color, freedom of painting, control of light and use of blacks for bold outlining.

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