Jan Balet was born in Bremen, Germany in 1913. His father was French and his mother was German.
Balet received formal art training at the Arts and Crafts Schools of Berlin and the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. As a young man he spent his summer vacations travelling extensively by bicycle through the Balkans, Spain, Italy and even Northern Africa. He counts the experience among his most important creative influences.
He might have begun his career in Europe but the rise of Hitler's Nazi regime in his homeland deeply disturbed him, and in 1938 he emigrated to the U.S. The transition was not entirely smooth. His first four years in America were tough ones, and he took any and all kinds of work to survive.
At last he began receiving assignments - and more - he took a position with Mademoiselle magazine, first as assistant art director, then as art director. The relationship lasted for two years.
Next came an offer to art direct Seventeen magazine. Balet stayed for a year and a half before choosing to go freelance.
As projects began flooding in from magazines and ad agencies, Balet still found time to make pictures for children's books. The piece above, courtesy of Ward Jenkins, is from the 1951 Rand McNally book, The Lazy Lion. For those interested in seeing more of The Lazy Lion, Ward has kindly posted the entire book in his Flickr archives.
My Jan Balet Flickr set.