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Jan Balet (20 July 1913 in Bremen – 31 January 2009 in Estavayer le Lac, Switzerland), was a German/US-American painter, graphic artist and illustrator. Affected by the style naive art he worked particularly as a graphic artist and as an Illustrator of children's books. Besides this he painted pictures in the style of naive art. Referred to as a “naïve” painter, his works exhibit a dry wit and refreshingly candid, satirical view of life.



Balet was son of German/Dutch parents. 1916 after the divorce of his parents 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 areaEduard Eggert and his uncle was the famous painter and illustrator Benno Eggert. Many well-known personalities of the time were friends of his grandfather, i.e. the painters Hans Purrmann, Karl Caspar, Maria Caspar-Filser (cousin of his mother), the writer Martin Andersen Nexo, the Swabian poet Wilhelm Schussen as well as the poet and writer Oskar Wöhrle, Balets godfather. 1920 his grandfather sold the house in Langenargen and the family moved to Friedrichshafen at Lake Constance.

School time

1920 Balet started school. 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.


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.

Emigration to the USA

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. 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.

Return to Europe

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.

Art work
Own publications (Children books and sketch books)

1948 Amos and the moon, Henry Z. Walck Verlag New York
1949 Ned, Ed and the lion
1951 What makes an orchestra
1959 The five Rollatinis, J. B. Lippincott Co. Verlag New York
1965 Joanjo, Pharos Verlag Basel
1966 Das Geschenk Eine portugiesische Weihnachtsgeschichte, Betz-Verlag München
1967 Der König und der Besenbinder, Betz-Verlag München
1969 Der Zaun, Otto Maier Verlag München
1969 Ladismaus, Betz-Verlag München
1979 Ein Skizzenbuch, Windecker Winkelpresse
1980 Katzen-Skizzen, Windecker Winkelpresse
1981 Skizzen-Paare, Windecker Winkelpresse
1981 Die Leihkatze oder Wie man Katzen lieben lernt, Windecker Winkelpresse (Author: Otto Schönberger)
1982 Paris-Skizzen, Windecker Winkelpresse
1984 Hellas-Skizzen, Windecker Winkelpresse
1993 Wasser-Skizzen, Edition Toni Pongratz
1994 Die Zeppeline des Jan Balet, Zeppelin-Museum Friedrichshafen (Taschenbuch)
2008 Angekommen: Gedichte (Author: Hans Skupy)

Publicationen, which Jan Balet illustrated

1945 Alarcon, P.A.: Tales from the Spanish, Allentown
1948 Hanle-Zack, D.: The golden ladle, Chicago-New York
1952 Wing, H.: Rosalinda, Chicago
1953 Wing, H.: The lazy lion, Chicago
1954 Jones, P.: Rumpelstiltskin, Chicago
1955 Jones, P.: Columbine, Chicago
1956 Jones, P.: Fair, brown and trembling, Chicago
1957 Bean blossom hill, Chicago
1958 King, M.B.: The birthday angel, Chicago
1959 King, M.B.: Papa Pompino, Chicago
1960 King, M.B.: The snow queen, Chicago
1960 Doyle, L.: Turkey and ham, New York
1962 Andersen, H.C.: The princess on the pea and other famous stories, New York
1963 Dickens, Ch.: The magic fishbone and other famous stories, New York
1963 Selden, G.: Mice, monks and the Christmas tree, New York
1964 Rossetti, C.: Adding a poem, New York
1967 Just one me, Chicago
1968 Krüss, J.: Ein- Eich & Mondhorn, München
1986 Schönberger, O.: Die Leihkatze oder wie man Katzen lieben lernt, Frankfurt

Awards and honours

1947 Gold Medal, Art Directors Club of New York
1948 Best of Industry, Direct Mail Award
1948 Gold Medal, Art Directors Club of New York
1948 Merit Award, Art Institute of Chicago
1949 Merit Award, Art Institute of Chicago
1950 Merit Award, Art Institute of Chicago
1952 Award, Book Clinic, Chicago
1954 Merit Award, Art Directors Club of Chicago
1954 Award for Merit, Art Directors Club of New York
1954 Certificate of Excellence, American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York
1956 Award, Book Clinic, Chicago
1956 Gold Medal, Art Directors Club of New York
1956 Gold Medal, Art Directors Club of Detroit
1956 Silver Medal, Art Directors Club of Detroit
1957 Certificate of Excellence, Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago
1957 Certificate of Merit, Art Directors Club of New York
1958 Certificate of Excellence, Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago
1959 Certificate of Excellence, Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago
1959 Citation for Merit, Society of Illustrators, New York
1960 Citation for Merit, Society of Illustrators, New York
1960 Award, Book Clinic, Chicago
1962 Citation for Merit, Society of Illustrators, New York
1965 Grammy Awards of 1965, Best Album Cover - Classical, Robert M. Jones (art director) & Jan Balet (graphic artist) for Saint-Saens: Carnival of the Animals/Britten: Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler
1980 Prix d'honneur, Concours International de la Peinture Naive, Morges/Suisse
1981 Prix d'argent, Concours International de la Peinture Naive, Morges/Suisse


1964 München, Pavillon Alter Botanischer Garten
1966 München, Pavillon Alter Botanischer Garten
1967 Berlin, Kunstamt Tiergarten
1968 Waiblingen, Rathaus
1969 Düsseldorf, Galerie Vömel
1971 Hamburg, Atelier Mensch
1972 Bremen, Paule-Modersohn-Becker-Haus
1972 Berlin, Galerie Niebuhr
1972 München, Pavillon Alter Botanischer Garten
1972 Düsseldorf, Galerie Vömel
1973 Hamburg Atelier Mensch
1974 Zürich Galerie Niggli
1975 Düsseldorf, Galerie Vömel
1976 Hamburg, Atelier Mensch
1976 Paris, FIAC
1977 Washington, ART Washington
1977 New York, Studio 53
1977 Basel, ART 77
1977 Bologna, Arte Fiera 77
1977 Knokke, Jacobean Gallery
1977 München, Galerie Schöninger
1977 San Francisco, Cory Gallery
1977 Marblehead, Quadrum Gallery
1977 Königstein, Galerie Spranger
1977 Köln, Galerie Orange
1978 Amsterdam, Galerie Spranger
1978 Washington, ART Washington
1978 Basel, ART 78
1978 Klosters, Galerie 63
1978 Los Angeles, Upstairs Gallery
1978 Long Beach, Upstairs Gallery
1978 Northridge, Upstairs Gallery
1978 Beverly Hills, Upstairs Gallery
1978 Orange County, Upstairs Gallery
1978 San Francisco, Cory Gallery
1978 Siegburg, Galerie Theisen
1978 Düsseldorf, Internationaler Kunstmarkst
1979 Vervier/Belgien, Galerie Keuninckx
1979 Berlin, Galerie Wölffer
1979 Basel, ART 78
1979 München, Galerie Charlotte
1979 Düsseldorf, Galerie Vömel
1980 Hamburg, Atelier Mensch
1980 Morges, Galeris Pro Arte
1980 Ascona, Galleria Associazione Artisti
1980 Amsterdam, Galerie Hamer
1981 Oisterwijk, Galerie de Granzerik
1981 Cartigny-Genève, Galerie L'Escapade
1982 Caracas, Galeria Contini
1982 Basel, Art 82
1982 Düsseldorf, Galerie Vömel
1983 Hamburg, Atelier Mensch
1983 Caracas, Galeria Contini
1983 Lima, Galeria Trapezio
1983 Langenargen, Museum
1984 München, Stadtmuseum
1985 New York, Circle Gallery
1986 New York, Jack Gallery
1987 Brüssel, International Centre of Naive Art
1988-1991 Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles
1992 Tokio, Galerie Naif Tanaka
1994 Friedrichshafen, Zeppelinmuseum
1996 Nonnenhorn am Bodensee, Galerie Probst
1997 Asbach Kreis Passau, Museum Kloster Asbach
1998 Zürich, Galerie Zum Grauen Wind
1998 Bern, Galerie Christine Brügger
1999 Zürich, Galerie Wolfsberg
1999 Rheinfelden, Haus Salmegg
2001 Zug, Altstadthaus
2002 München, Galerie Hell
2003 Böblingen, Fleischermuseum
2004 München, Galerie Hell
2007 Blankenburg, Switzerland, Galerie Hüsy
2007 Gstaad, Switzerland,Hotel Gstaaderhof
2008 Worb, Atelier Worb
2008 Bad Saulgau, Galerie "Die Fähre"

Balet’s works are in permanent museum collections in Europe, including the Städt Museum in Munich, the Regierungspräsidium in Tübingen, the Kunsthalle in Bremen, the Langenargen Museum at lake Constance, the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich and the Fleischer Museum in Böblingen, Germany.

R. Zuck, Naive Malerei, M./W. 1974
Jan Balet, Gemälde – Zeichnungen – Graphik – Museum Langenargen am Bodensee, 1983
Nebojsa Tomasevic, World Encyclopaedia of Naive Art, Frederick Muller Ltd, 1984
O. Bihalji-Merin, Die Naiven der Welt, Eltville 1986
Die Zeppeline des Jan Balet. Katalog der Ausstellung im Zeppelin-Museum Friedrichshafen 8. Juni 1994 - 31. Juli 1994.
Marcus, Leonard S.: 75 Years of Children's Book Week Posters: Celebrating Great Illustrators of American Children's Books, New York 1994
Klaus Doderer, Lexikon der Kinder- und Jugendliteratur, Beltz, 1995

Artist, Germany


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Paintings, List

Zeichnungen, Gemälde

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