Gaston Balande was a pupil of Fernand Cormon and Rupert Bunny. He spent 60 years of his life in Étaples, Pas-de-Calais (northern France) and Paris before settling in La Rochelle after World War II. Between 1931 and 1954 he was the curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in La Rochelle. He was decorated with the title of Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur in 1925, was then made an Officier in 1952 and a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in 1961.
Gaston Balande established himself as an artist between the wars and his work was highly sought after by numerous galleries. In what is known as his 'dark' period, he began painting the political and social reality of his day in a sombre palette. After a study trip from 1912 to 1913 to Belgium, Holland, Spain and Italy, he brightened his colours and began painting in a refined Post-Impressionist style. Although he was declared unfit for service during World War I, he was nevertheless engaged as an official army painter in 1917 to describe what he saw through art. After 1945, the last 30 years of his production in Saintonge were characterised by a repetitive formalism: he painted landscapes, portraits and flowers. He also worked on several decorative projects, including decorations for Aubervilliers town hall representing allegories of The Offertory and Work. He made designs for a large tapestry ( The Quercy) for the Gobelins tapestry manufactory and was commissioned to produce decorations for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. He also illustrated the following books: The Mistress Servant ( La Servante Maîtresse) by the Tharaud brothers; and Aunis and Saintonge Country ( Le Pays d'Aunis et de Saintonge) by H. Talvart and Vaux de Foletier; he also illustrated a self-penned book entitled Ré: A Welcoming Island ( Ré, Île Accueillante).
From 1905 to 1931 he exhibited at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français, becoming a member in 1912, the year he received a travel bursary. He participated in the Salon d'Automne between 1913 and 1938, at the Salon des Artistes Indépendants from 1921 onward, at the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts from 1933 to 1936, and at the Salon des Tuileries. He also exhibited in Brussels in 1910 and 1925, and participated at the International Exhibition in Paris, in 1937. In 2004 an exhibition entitled The Unknown Gaston Balande (Paintings, Drawings and Engravings) ( Gaston Balande Méconnu (Peintures, Dessins, Gravures)), centred around his work prior to World War II, was presented at the Espace d'Art Contemporain in La Rochelle and the Musée d'Orbigny-Bernon.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Alençon: The Seine at Port-Mort
Dijon: The Meuse at Namur
Fontenay-le-Comte: The Esnande Road; Old Pouzauges
Gap: Espalion Bridge
La Rochelle (MBA): Mill in Vendée; Landscape; Woman of Aunis; La Rochelle Harbour; Départ pour la Pêche à Étaples (1907)
Paris (MAM): Fine Summer Days
Paris (Manufacture des Gobelins): Le Quercy
Paris (Mus. du Petit Palais): Goussenville Church
Pau (MBA): L'Improvisation (1923)
Saintes: View of the Coast towards Saint-Palais