Skip to content

Jan B. Balet Mid century Illustrator

April 22, 2013

Fishinkblog 5765 Jan Balet 1

Jan. B. Balet was born in 1913, the son of German/Dutch parents.  Three years later, his parents divorced and he and his mother moved to live with his mother’s parents Langenargen at Lake Constance in Germany. His grandfather was the senior judicial counsellor in the area Eduard Eggert and his uncle was the famous painter and illustrator Benno Eggert. Many well-known personalities of the time were friends of his grandfather. In 1920 his grandfather sold the house in Langenargen and the family moved to Friedrichshafen at Lake Constance.  Jan started school  1920. Because his mother and his grandmother had difficulties bringing him up after the death of his grandfather in 1926 Balet was sent to boarding school in GermanySchule Schloss Salem. In 1927 Balet moved to the Hansa Home, a strictly catholic institution in Munich and attended grammar school. In order to take up an apprenticeship with a painter shop Balet left school before finishing sixth class. He cut the apprenticeship short, leaving before the end of the second year,

Fishinkblog 5775 Jan Balet 11

In 1929, at the age of 17, he moved to Berlin at the invitation of his father and studied Drawing at the college of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbeschule Ost am Schlesischen Bahnhof). A year later, he went to live with his mother and his grandmother, in Munich. Balet transferred his studies to the Munich College of Arts but was dismissed in 1932. He went on to study with Professor Ege, at a private school for commercial art. During this time he also worked at an institute for lithography and for the art gallery Wallach. Balet rented his first small studio at the age of nineteen, where he manufactured and sold hand colored Bavarian woodcuts. 1934 he passed the entrance examination to the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München and undertook further studies with Olaf Gulbransson.

Fishinkblog 5766 Jan Balet 2 Fishinkblog 5767 Jan Balet 3

In early 1938 Balet was recruited by the German military and because his ancestor’s passport was not complete, he was forbidden to associate further with the Akademie der Bildenden Künste München. Later that year Balet emigrated to the USA, settled in New York and painted rustic furniture for a living. One winter he jobbed as a skiing teacher in Vermont and occasionally jobbed as an advertising commercial artist. Among other projects, he painted the cafeteria of the largest of New York’s department stores R.H. Macy. He married a young woman named Bertha Quinn and in 1940 his son Peter was born. From time to time Balet’s designs appeared in the fashion magazine Mademoiselle and in 1943 he became Art Director at the magazine. Balet became so successful as a commercial artist that he was able to give up paid employment and start his own business. He worked for the radio station CBS, magazines such as Vogue, House and Garden, House Beautiful, The Saturday Evening Post, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, This week. After the war ended in 1945 he acquired U.S. citizenship.

Fishinkblog 5769 Jan Balet 5 Fishinkblog 5772 Jan Balet 8

In 1945 Balet and his wife divorced and Peter and his mother went to live with her parents in Ballston Spa, NY. Balet commuted between his studio in New York and an old, boat house in the dunes of Montauk, Long Island, which he had converted to a studio where he painted and drew. His first children’s book Amos and the Moon was published in 1948. Soon after he travelled to Europe to visit his mother and his grandmother in Munich and then spent two months in Paris, which provided great inspiration for his future work. His grandmother died in 1949 at the age of 93 years and Balet said she had been “the most important and dearest person” in his life. Around this time Balet began a relationship with American photo model Lisa Tallal, whom he married a few years later. Balet sold his boat house and purchased his dream house, also on Long Island. Balet and his wife enjoyed an expensive lifestyle which required him to focus on commercial art. During travels to Europe and Mexico Balet took many photographs, since there was insufficient time for drawing. Despite what was regarded in the USA as fashionable art Abstract, Op-art and Popart Balet continued to paint in his own style. His mother died in 1963 and he inherited the house in Munich. As a former pupil of Olaf Gulbransson, Balet was invited, in 1964, to present an exhibition in the Pavillon Alter Botanischer Garten Munich. Many of his children’s books and illustrations were included in the exhibition as well as a variety of his commercial artwork. This encouraged Balet to keep on painting in his special style.

Fishinkblog 5771 Jan Balet 7

He helped advertise perfumes with his witty characters.

Fishinkblog 5773 Jan Balet 9 Fishinkblog 5774 Jan Balet 10

Images to run alongside articles.

Fishinkblog 5770 Jan Balet 6

And a whole host of children’s books.

Fishinkblog 5768 Jan Balet 4 Fishinkblog 5776 Jan Balet 12 Fishinkblog 5778 Jan Balet 13

He even snook a few record covers in the mix too !

Fishinkblog 5779 Jan Balet 14

In 1965 Balet and his wife Lisa divorced and he returned to Munich where he started to illustrate children’s books again, to paint his impressions of his various journeys and to hold exhibitions of his work. In 1973 he settled in the countryside with Claudia (Gerda) C. Foth, in La Landelle in France. Balet enjoyed increasing success with painting and stopped working as a commercial artist. In 1976 Balet received an order from an art dealer to make a number of lithographs annually in Switzerland. Circle Fine Art arranged several exhibitions of these in many different countries. Baletand his wife, Claudia, moved to Estavayer le Lac on Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland in 1978 so he would not have to travel so far to Zurch to work on his lithographs. Coincidentally his father’s family originally came from this area where Balet is a common family name.

Fishinkblog 5780 Jan Balet 15

Such an array of wonderful work. Thanks to Wikipedia for the information and to Leif Peng and Ward Jenkins for some of the imagery used here.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Wallace permalink
    April 22, 2013 9:02 am

    Interesting to see another illustrator who pastes pattens into their work – you’re not alone

    • April 22, 2013 9:35 am

      Thanks Wallace, separated by 60 years and still alike : ) subconsciously it seems we learn from the masters.

  2. Elizabeth Salthouse permalink
    April 22, 2013 6:57 pm

    Wow, another fab illustrator! Love the lazy lion!! xxxxx

    Sent from my clever little phone

    • April 22, 2013 9:22 pm

      Thanks Lizzie, Yep isn’t he great. Cheers for noticing and expressing too lol

  3. April 23, 2013 7:17 pm

    Thanks for this post – wow, great work by this illustrator!

  4. C. Hogan-Kilburn permalink
    November 10, 2015 1:42 am

    Have you seen the new site about Jan Balet and his work?

    • November 10, 2015 8:48 am

      No I hadn’t …. but I have now : ) Many thanks for sharing that, it looks great.

      • permalink
        November 10, 2015 1:11 pm

        Glad you had a chance to look. Please feel free to share with others who might have an interest.


      • November 10, 2015 3:41 pm

        Hi Chris, I have put a link to the site in my blog post on Mr Balet now. Many thanks

      • permalink
        November 10, 2015 4:01 pm

        Our thanks to you – very much appreciated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: