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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Antoine Blanchard "La Madeleine", photo courtesy of: Rehs Galleries, Inc., New York City

Rehs Galleries is presenting an exhibition of Parisian street scenes by 20th-century French artist Antoine Blanchard (1910-1988). Opening on February 3rd and running through the 28th, the exhibit will feature examples of the artist’s work dating from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, with views of Place Vendôme, Place de la Concorde, Notre-Dame, Théâtre du Vaudeville, the Arc de Triomphe and many others.

Blanchard, whose real name was Marcel Masson, was born in a small village in France just after the turn of the century. From an early age, Blanchard exuded artistic talent – in those formative years, he spent time watching his father work as a carver in his small carpentry and furniture shop. Antoine would begin his studies in drawing at Blois, continuing on to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, where he was awarded the school’s highest honor – Le Prix du Ministre. It was at that point that Blanchard left Rennes and traveled to Paris to further his studies – a city that would consume Blanchard’s oeuvre.

He quickly developed a love for the city and its street life, but that fascination was put on hold as World War II broke out, and Blanchard was called up for service. The following years were a tumultuous period in his life… he returned to his art in 1942, but a short time later his father passed away and Blanchard felt compelled to return to his hometown and run the family business. By the end of the decade, and following the birth of his second daughter, Blanchard turned the family business over to his younger brother and ventured back to Paris.

By then, contemporary life in Paris had changed, and Blanchard longed for the bygone days – he began to research the Belle Époque (1870-1914). That period, named in retrospect, was considered to be the “golden age” in Western history. Much of Blanchard’s subject matter would be scenes constructed from images he collected of Paris from those years as he rebuilt the city he fell in love with.

Amy Rehs, an expert on the artist, commented, “Over the past few decades, we have seen mounting interest in authentic paintings by Blanchard. Today, more than ever, collectors are looking for a chance to escape the hustle, bustle, and ‘social’ noise of the 21st century. Blanchard’s work gives them the opportunity for some well-deserved quiet time.”

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