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Gaston Balande

Biography of Artist



Gaston Balande was born in Madrid in 1880 to French parents, but was brought back to Saujon in the Charente region of France near the Atlantic coast, as a baby. He was educated in Saujon, and on leaving school, after several unsatisfactory jobs unrelated to art, became apprenticed to a picture restorer and determined upon a career as an artist.

After an initially unsuccessful attempt to become an artist in Paris, he returned in the early years of the twentieth century to study at the Atelier Cormon with the artist Fernand Cormon (1845 -1924). Success followed very quickly with his paintings being accepted at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1905, where he also was awarded the Prix Edmond Lemaitre. He continued to exhibit regularly with this group. He also at this time had a studio in Étaples which he kept until 1913. His paintings at this time were heavily influenced by Courbet and his old tutor Cormon, with a correspondingly dark palette.

In 1912 Gaston Balande was awarded a travel scholarship which enabled him to travel in Europe and North Africa, but it was his visit to Italy that had the greatest influence on his work. The discovery of Italian painting and the strong Italian light was a revelation and from that moment until the end of his life his palette became considerably lighter in tone and more luminescent.

Gaston Balande continued to have a very successful and varied career for the rest of his life. In 1917 he became an official War Artist, and after the First World War his success as a landscape, seascape, still-life and portrait artist enabled him to have studios in Paris and Lauzieres (near La Rochelle). As well as becoming secretary of the Salon d’Automne in 1919, he also taught at the Académie Jubert in Paris until 1932. He continued to teach from 1937 until the end of the Second World War at the American School of Fine Art in Fontainebleau. He also undertook various commissions such as tapestries for the Gobelin factory and murals for the liner Normandie and the Town Hall at Aubervilliers in the 1930’s. He also became the curator of the La Rochelle Museum in 1931 and in addition was created Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1925, an Officier in 1952 and Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 1961.

One of Gaston Balande’s enduring fascinations was the interplay between landscape and water, whether river, lake, or sea. He was equally inspired by the many ports, small or large, in the Charente-Maritime region, and he declared ‘painting is my joy in life’. He also displayed a powerful focus on his own view of the world, refusing to be unduly influenced by the many art movements of the twentieth century.

He participated in many exhibitions in Paris, France and Europe and also USA, and Buenos Aires. His paintings can be found in many museums throughout France including theMusée d’Art Moderne and the Petit Palais in Paris, and those of La Rochelle, Geneva, Dijon, Le Havre, Avignon and many more: museums abroad include Buenos Aires and Los Angeles. Gaston Balande died in 1971.