Antoine Blanchard is a pseudonym of Marcel Masson. His work is renowned for its depictions of Paris and Parisian life at the turn of the 20th Century. Today he is regarded as one of the leading advocates of the School of Paris painters. Born in a small village near Loire in France, he received his initial artistic training at Beaux-Arts, Rennes, Brittany. The artist then moved to Paris in 1932 to study at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which is where his love for the city and its street life began.
Blanchard married in 1939 to a young Parisian woman and in September that same year, World War II broke out and he was called up for service.
After the war and the birth of his two daughters, Blanchard returned to Paris in 1948 to paint. However he found Paris and Parisian life had drastically changed and longed for the bygone days. He began to research the Belle Époque period in Paris – a period characterised by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity and technological and scientific innovation. It was characterised as the ‘Golden Age’ of the city after the horrors of WWII.
Blanchard began painting his historical Parisian street scenes in the late 1950s. He paints Paris landmarks many times over in different weather and seasonal states. His most recurrent topics though, are views of the city in cloudy and rainy weather lit up by bright storefronts, with busy streets full of pedestrians.
Blanchard’s work is very similar to that of Édouard Cortés who also depicted Paris through its daily and seasonal changes. However he was not an imitator of Cortés as his work depicts the city from his own point-of-view with his own unique style and brushwork.
A.P. Larde wrote: “…Although a large number of historical monuments remain, today’s Paris has little in common with Paris at the turn of the century; the scenery may be almost the same, but daily life and its characters has totally changed; the customs have been entirely transformed. In his paintings, Antoine Blanchard invites us to relive this period by showing us pleasant strolls along embankments, squares and boulevards at a period in Parisian life when time did not count, when one had all one's time to idle, to stroll along the streets, to window-shop, to walk quietly along the boulevards or spend the afternoon in a sidewalk café.”
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