The Child and Young Man in Germany


  • July 20 - Jan Balet is born in Bremen, Germany to Leonard F. M. J. Balet (1878-1965) [Doctor of Philosophy from Fribourg, author and First Assistant at Kunstgewerkmuseum] and mother Marianne Eggert (d. 1963). 


  • Jan’s parents divorce and he goes to live with his mother and her parents in Langenargen, Germany. Grandfather Eduard Eggert (1852-1926) is a magistrate and collector. Grandmother Maria (Keller) Eggert (1857-1951) becomes the guiding hand in Jan’s life. He enjoys his early years swimming in the sea, ice skating, sailing, and visiting family friends.  


  • Eduard sells the house in Langenargen and the family moves to Friedrichshafen where Jan attends elementary and junior high school. There he meets many artists, including Hans Purrmann.    


  • Eduard dies and is buried in honorary grave in Friedrichshafen. During this very tumultuous time in his life, Jan attends various schools, but is expelled or runs away.


  • Jan moves to his father’s home in Berlin and attends Oest Kunstgewerbeschule. While there, he steals money and is deported back to Munich, where he begins his friendship with Fritz Wallach (1914-2014).


  • Jan is expelled from the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) and attends the private art school of Professor E. Ege in Munich where he learns the advertising arts. Directed by Moritz Wallach (1879-1963), father of Fritz, he works at Volkskunsthaus designing fabrics and posters and painting country furniture.  


  • In Munich, Jan opens his first independent studio and studies illustration with Prof. Olaf Gulbransson at Akademie der Bildenden Kunste. He also develops a friendship with Arthur Rümann, a collector of old children’s books, who later becomes Director of the Lenbach Gallery.  Jan travels extensively each year through Europe during this period and spends three months in New York City working on theater sets at the invitation of Fritz Wallach.

The Designer in New York City


  • Jan briefly serves in the military in Eichstätt, Germany. Deeply concerned with the military’s treatment of his Jewish friends, he obtains a visitor’s visa to the U.S. with the help of his friend Fritz Wallach. Jan emigrates to the United States, as does his father who teaches at Brooklyn College, and then at the New School for Social Research, continuing his scholarly research and publication.


  • Travels in the Americas commence for Jan. A visit to Cuba ends with a return to New York, where he marries model Bertha Quinn [Phinney] (1918-1993). 


  • On May 27, Jan’s son Peter is born in New York City. It is during this year that he makes an acquaintance with M. F. Agha, former Director of Vogue and Vanity Fair, which leads to success in advertising.


  • Jan begins his friendship with art director George Davis who assists him in learning the intricacies of the magazine production. Jan assumes the role of art director for Mademoiselle Magazine in 1943 and also begins illustrating award winning children’s books for other authors. In 1946, he becomes art director for Seventeen Magazine. That same year, he divorces Bertha in Florida and also becomes an American citizen. Jan then moves to Montauk, Long Island and begins creating advertisements for CBS Radio. He establishes an elite following and continues producing commercial illustrations for top U.S. magazines, including: Vogue, Saturday Evening Post, Look, Life, Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal, This Week, and Promenade.  


  • Jan authors and illustrates his first children’s book: Amos and the Moon. During this period, he also obtains and learns to fly a plane for commuting from East Hampton to NYC. Jan also participates in the 28th Annual Exhibition of Advertising Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. 


  • Jan’s beloved grandmother dies and he returns to Friedrichshafen to handle her personal affairs.  


  • Following Jan’s move to Brookville, Long Island, his mother visits and he is able to assist her financially because of his success.


  • Jan marries Lisa Tallal who subsequently becomes a medical student.


  • During this period, Jan develops a passion for collecting such things as reverse glass paintings, toys, watches, and 19th century graphic art and books. An avid traveler, Jan continues his trips.


  • Once again, Jan must travel to Germany to handle affairs when his mother dies in Munich.


  • Prof. Gulbransson invites Jan to show his art in an exhibition hosted by the City of Munich at Pavilion Alter Botanischer Garten. Included in the exhibition are examples of Jan’s commercial graphic works, children’s books, illustrations, and paintings. The show is sold out. Jan sells his American folk art collection to fund his return to Europe.

The Artist in Germany, France, and Switzerland


  • Jan terminates his work in the U.S. and returns to Munich where he becomes acquainted with Luis Strobl, artistic director of Betz-Verlag publishing house. Jan begins to show his art throughout Europe. 


  • In May, Jan divorces Lisa in Mexico. During these years, the number of his exhibitions expands.


  • Jan travels to Northern Italy with Gerda “Claudia” Foth (b.1942) whom he marries in 1973. Claudia is a bookseller, pianist, and a cultured woman. They move to La Landelle, France.  


  • An art dealer named Wolfensberger invites Jan to make lithographs. Jan arranges exhibitions of his paintings and lithographs in various countries, including at an art fair in Paris.


  • Jan exhibits with ART 77 in USA, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Belgium.


  • He and Claudia move to Estavayer-la-lac in Switzerland to make it more convenient for him to produce his lithographs at the Swiss studio. 


  • Jan publishes his autobiography in connection with an exhibition of his work at the Museum Langenargen am Bodensee.


  • Jan continues creating his art and traveling. He divorces Claudia in 1993.


  • Jan works on sixty paintings commissioned for an exhibit at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen.  


  • A fall in November results in a hematoma in his head for which he undergoes three unsuccessful operations.


  • January 31 - Jan Balet dies and is buried in Estavayer-la-lac, Switzerland. Keeping his sense of humor from the grave, he leaves instructions to send a prewritten letter to his friends as his death announcement.