As I was doing some cleaning up of my study today, I came across some French postcards which I had bought in Paris. They are the inspiration for today’s Art Sunday as the art of the street scenes of Paris by Antoine Blanchard, (1910-1988) characterise the city artistically, socially as well as architecturally. Antoine Blanchard was often introduced to collectors that visited Paris with a view to acquiring some art, as the foremost artist of Parisian street scenes of his day. Like his predecessors, the French masters Cortes, Loir and Utrillo, Blanchard has made quite an impact on contemporary art.
He was born in 1910 in a small village near Blois in the Loire Valley. Blanchard was encouraged at a young age to follow an artistic career. His parents first sent him as a young boy to an art school in Blois, and then relocated the entire family to Rennes in Brittany so that young Antoine could study there at the Ècole des Beaux-Arts. Three years later, in 1932, the young artist moved to Paris in order to Study at its world famous Ècole des Beaux-Arts. Upon completion of his studies, Blanchard was awarded the Prix de Rome, an honour rarely given to an artist so young.
He spent quite a few years in Paris recording scenes of the city’s bustling streets characterised by glowing street lamps, flower vendors pushing carts full of brilliantly-coloured flowers and pedestrians crowding the sidewalks and showing off their fashionable clothes. His works were an immediate success, and critics have compared his works to the traditional Paris street scenes painted in the late 1800s and early 1900s in both style and subject matter. It is, however, important to note that Blanchard’s pieces are more delicate in brushwork, more generous in colour and capture more movement than those of his predecessors.
Combining his years of classical training with innovative techniques of the 20th century, Blanchard was a trendsetter. The artist’s works executed throughout his fifty year long career are witness to his gradual development in technique, moving from heavy and dark tones similar to those of the old masters, to a new style using numerous strokes of colour lightly applied to the canvas. With immense imagination, profound understanding of colour and light and accuracy in architectural detail, Blanchard has continually delighted the art world with his compositions.
In 1979, his large canvas “Le Café de la Paix” won the Premier Grand Prix at the first art competition held in Paris’ famed Café de la Paix on the bustling Boulevard des Capucines. That work is now part of a major collection in Salt Lake City, Utah. Spanning five decades of ceaseless hours spent in front of the easel, Blanchard’s career was fired by a pressing goal to continually excel. This strict discipline did not, however, harden his work – it proved only to refine it. Along with Utrillo, Loir, Guys, Galien-Laloue and Cortes, Antoine Blanchard is one of the great impressionists of modern times.
Looking at his art, I am struck by the nostalgically dated look of his paintings. It is a contrived style that, yes, does pander to the tourist tastes, but at the same time it captures the essence of Paris. Not contemporary Paris perhaps, with its race riots, its traffic problems and pollution, its crime and bomb scares, but the Paris that most people have in their mind: A romantic city of art and music, good food and fashion, fun and frolic.
The painting above is “Le Café de la Paix”, which charactarises both the style and subject matter of Blanchard.
Have a good week!
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.