Antoine Blanchard (c.1910-1988) was a prolific and successful Neo-Impressionist painter who specialized in nostalgic scenes of Fin de Siècle Paris. Inspired by the subjects as well as the success of earlier painters of Parisian life like E. Galien Laloue (1854-1941), Eduard Cortes (1882-1969), Jean Béraud (1849-1935) and Luigi Loir (1845-1916), Blanchard painted hundreds of views of the “City of Light.” In the late 1950s, his street scenes were exported to the United States and the United Kingdom, where they sold briskly to collectors. By the1960s, Blanchard paintings were bringing several hundred dollars in galleries, so they were not inexpensive, but were attractive to collectors who loved Parisian scenes but who could not afford the works of Cortes or one of the other French painters known for their views of Paris in Belle Époque. Eventually Blanchard’s more delicate, feathery pastel-toned scenes of rain-swept Paris became sought after in their own right and, when he died, he was considered the last of the Ecole de Paris or “School of Paris” painters.
Antoine Blanchard – "Place de la Republique"
The Early Life of Marcel Masson né Antoine Blanchard
The most salient fact about the life and career of the painter Antoine Blanchard was that he was actually born Marcel Masson, the son of a furniture maker who lived in the scenic Loire Valley, south of Paris, where the French nobility had their chateaus. The date that is usually given for Blanchard’s birth is November 15, 1910, but some of the facts of his life have always been clouded by early biographies that claimed even earlier dates for his birth, probably so that he would seem to be seen as a contemporary of the famous Belle Epoch painters rather than a follower. Blanchard grew up in the hardscrabble years following the First World War. Because he was artistically talented, he was sent first to the nearby city of Blois, the capital of the Loire-et-Cher Département, for artistic training and then to the École des Beaux-Arts in Rennes, on the Brittany peninsula, where he received a classical art education. By some accounts Blanchard also studied in Paris, where the historic École des Beaux-Arts is located, but the depth of his study and the style of his earliest work will require further research.
Marcel Masson was married in 1939, as war clouds gathered on the French horizon. He was drafted for service in the French Army and participated in the short and futile struggle against the invading German Panzers before returning to his family and his art during the Nazi occupation. A daughter, Nicole, was born in 1944 with a second daughter, Eveline, who eventually came to the United States, following in 1946. Masson’s early art career was interrupted, first by World War II and later by the necessity of keeping his father’s workshop running in the years after his death. By the late 1940s, though, Masson returned to his art and moved to Paris in order to further his career.