Original etched Christmas card ‘Guste’ by George Ball. With a presentation inscription. Paris: Self-published., 2003. First edition. Original etched Christmas card. 2003. Signed, titled ‘Guste’ and numbered 17/83 in pencil by the artist. Plate size 100x100mm.
George Ball was born in San Francisco, California on August 10, 1929, the only son of Edwin Ball and Elisabeth Cross. As a child he began drawing constantly and developed a love for the three art museums of the city, where his mother regularly took him to see Rodin’s sculptures at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. The 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island in San Francisco also had a profound influence on the 10 year old boy, especially La Venus by Sandro Botticelli and the works of Andrea Mantegna. After graduating from high school in 1947 he attended Stanford University, studying law and art history, graduating in 1952. In 1955, during a first trip to Italy, he immersed himself in Venetian and Florentine art then returned to San Francisco to pursue another year studying graphic art at Stanford. He showed little aptitude for advertising art and, against the advice of his teachers, he nevertheless decided to become a painter.
In 1956, Ball participated in his first group exhibitions at the Richmond Art Center, San Francisco De Young Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco; he distinguished himself by receiving several awards. The Gump’s Gallery organized his first exhibitions for him. These painting were mostly landscapes and they received much public acclaim. With his early successes, he could have remained a landscape painter and continued his career in California, but in 1958 he received the Fulbright Program grant and decided to go to Italy, however, on reflection, decided instead to go to France, becoming a student at the Sorbonne at age 28.
In 1958, in post-war Paris, Ball continued to paint, but then he met printmaker Stanley William Hayter. The master printmaker, founder of Atelier 17, befriended the young artist who became his pupil and then his assistant at the Ranson Academy where Hayter had re-established Atelier 17, an experimental workshop frequented by artists from various backgrounds: Gail Singer, Isolde Baumgart, Jim Monson, Jean Lodge, Dadi Wirz, Cécil and Lil Michaelis, became his good friends.
In 1960 he bought a press that he installed in his Parisian apartment which in turn, transformed into a workshop located on the 5th floor of an old building in rue de la Huchette. Lil and Cécil Michaelis lived on the first floor and Abidin Dino and his wife Güzin, across the hall This community of artists met every summer with Hayter on the property of the Michaelis at Harmas, route du Tholonet in Aix en Provence. The same year he met, through Hayter, Raymond Haasen, engraver and Master Printer who became his friend and assistant, printing more than one hundred engravings for him.
George Ball had arrived on the Parisian artistic scene at the time when lyrical abstraction, informal art, dripping, materialism flourished. He explored these paths for a few years by combining these different techniques. Later his art evolved again, from abstraction to a return to figuration. From 1961, he exhibited large oils: landscapes, portraits, fountains, urban landscapes, along with engravings, alongside Alexander Calder, Jasper Johns and Anita de Caro. After that many galleries and traveling exhibitions hosted his works. He was part of the USA New Painting group which under the patronage of the US Embassy which represented American art in France. All the artists of this group exhibited regularly on both sides of the Atlantic. Along with Hayter and Atelier 17 he participated in numerous international exhibitions.
In May 1968, he concentrated on the great movements he observed in the Latin Quarter through a large number of gouaches, drawings and paintings. However, he did not abandon the theme of the landscape, the central theme of his work, often with a female character from behind looking out of a window so that the viewer, too, could be an attentive observer of the passing world. From 1970 to 1980, Ball devoted himself to working with many of the young engravers in Atelier 17 and, until his death, in his own workshop in rue de la Parcheminerie. During this period, he produced monumental works on aluminum panels, commissioned by States or museums in the United States and France.
The deaths of Lil Michalelis in 1987, Stanley William Hayter in 1988 and Adibine Dino in 1993 plunged him into a depression and disarray from which he finally emerged during a long stay at the Franciscan hermitage of La Cordelle in Vézelay. There he met Brother Ambroise Negrel and Father Joseph Fondeur, who would participate in both his religious conversion and a form of artistic renaissance. The Church of Saint Séverin in Paris commissioned him to have two large oils on canvas depicting angels, now exhibited in the presbytery.
In 1982, the bibliophile association “les 101” asked him to illustrate Les Cahiers de Malte Laurids Brigge, by Rainer Maria Rilke. Three years of work were necessary to complete the work. In 1994, the artist and American friend Richard Nelson, a former student, asked him to illustrate in two voices the work of Saint John of the Cross, The Dark Night. The same year, with his gallery owner André Biren, he met novelist and literary columnist Michel Déon. Several works of art and an important correspondence testify to their friendship.
George Ball’s work was substantial. From 1951, the year of his first artistic distinction, to October 2010, the date of his death, he never stopped creating. There are around 400 engraved works: 50 aluminum plates used during public commissions for the creation of monumental works, 360 engravings on copper plate including 45 plates illustrating 10 art books, 10 woodcuts; 400 canvases painted in oils, 400 watercolors, 300 drawings in Indian ink, gouache, pencils and charcoal, 30 Japanese notebooks drawn in Indian ink, watercolor and felt, and 120 sketchbooks.
George Ball died in Paris on October 30, 2010. His ashes are scattered in the Tholonet park, at the foot of the Sainte-Victoire mountain.
Format: Folding card.
Edition: First edition
Book ID: 030689