Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jan Balet: Influences of an influential illustrator

In the business and among his peers Jan Balet was known as a cartoonist or a 'decorative' illustrator who worked in a 'humorous' style.

But pinning a label on Balet is more complicated than that. American Artist magazine called his work "graphic whimsy", which is a fun way of putting it, I think.

Balet himself said he drew inspiration from both ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian art -- something that might not be apparent until its pointed out, but it hints at the hidden complexity of Balet's intentions.

Personally, I see a broad range of influences,

...including the work of Balet's contemporaries, like Jim Flora and Roy Doty.

Roy told me he didn't know Balet well, but they sometimes crossed paths as they came and went from the offices of clients when picking up or dropping off assignments. Roy described Balet as "very much the European."

He was probably commenting on Jan Balet's character -- but I think that Balet's work has a sort of European character as well. On his studio walls Balet hung the work of Picasso, Chagall, Guys and Lautrec. He is said to have favoured the work of these "French Moderns" but that he was "Catholic in his tastes and likes all sorts of art that is good of its kind."

The small sampling here and the other work you've seen so far this week certainly lends credence to that statement.

My Jan Balet Flickr set.


  1. oooh i love the style! very simple but very descriptive =D

  2. Anonymous4:43 PM

    and of course influenced by saul steinberg

  3. Of course? I don't know, claude. Would it not be more likely that Balet & Steinberg shared some common influences? I looked at Steinberg's work online and I don't see much similarity to Balet... but I welcome an elaboration if you'd care to educate me :-)