1909 – 1938
Siena – Paris – Mallorca – Barcelona – London – Avant-garde, Colour, Impressionism

Oscar Barblan is born in Siena, Italy, in 1909 as the son of emigrated Swiss parents from the Grisons. After studying at the Art Academies of Siena and Perugia, he relocates to Paris for three years in 1930, where among others he attends the Academy of Montparnasse. The City, with its intoxicating atmosphere, and the contact to the Avant-garde fascinate the young painter. However, he lacks the inner peace necessary to develop his own art. When approached about this time period, he would later reply: "I always thought that my works were too advanced for a simple or commercial painter, but not enough to be a leader in the art field."
Afterwards, he moves on to the island of Mallorca and roams on foot, with only canvas and paint as baggage. To survive, he works here and there as a cook. The renowned art critic Lionello Venturi wrote about this time: "For Barblan on Mallorca, the discovery of colours was an exercise in exuberance." After his first solo exhibition in 1936 in Barcelona, the Spanish Civil War breaks out. However, before hastily leaving Spain, he assists Federico Garcia Lorca in saving works of art from destruction.
Following an invitation to England, he exhibits in London in 1938, where the "Times" particularly recognizes his solo exhibition. Here he undergoes his impressionistic phase and at the same time immerses himself into portrait studies, which enable him later – during his Basel years – to paint his portraits, esteemed by art critics and the public alike.

1939 – 1955
War – Between Italy and Switzerland – Between Music and Painting – Family – Basel

Shortly before the outbreak of the war, Oscar Barblan returns to Italy and moves into a studio in Florence, which is later destroyed by bombs. After many multifaceted experiences during his travels and having experimented with various techniques, the search for his own unique style – his "inner landscape" as he calls it – comes to the fore. His first exhibitions in Italy take place in 1940.
After marrying he settles down in Basel, Switzerland, in 1946 with his wife Grazia and his one year old son Giacomo. It is an economically difficult post-war period, especially for an "expatriated Swiss". On account of his musical talent he is admitted into the Basel Symphony Orchestra under conductor Paul Sacher, first as second violin, then as double-bass player. In 1953 he receives an invitation to perform at the Festival of Prades, where he personally meets the famous cellist Pablo Casals. This remains an indelible experience for him throughout his life.
Thanks to music, which accompanies him throughout his life, he refines the rhythmic challenges in painting and learns how to nuance the fine tonal gradation: his colours become "musical" and soon he develops into a sublime colourist, both in his forceful oil paintings – mainly delivered with a spatula – and later in the subtle, often delicate mixed techniques. However, he realizes that he must make a painful decision, since music is at the same time absorbing the strength he needs to consolidate his own painting style.

1956 – 1987
Circus – "Inner Landscape" – Consolidation of his personal style – New paths

In 1956 his second son Paolo is born. That same year, Oscar Barblan goes on tour with Circus Knie as the double-bass player in the circus orchestra. The circus world shapes him substantially and from then on many of his works contain figures such as clowns, ballerinas, horses and horsemen. Of course, the "female figure" – seductive, innocent, maternal, even mystic, gorgeously dressed, half naked or naked – as well as the hill and sea landscapes of Tuscany already appeared in his earlier works. However, imbedded in the circus world or stimulated by it, figures and subjects now appear in a new poetic and dreamy atmosphere.
Enriched by this experience and newly inspired in his creativity, Oscar Barblan now focuses exclusively on painting. The exhibitions increase significantly with lasting success. In the Seventies his frequent exhibitions move progressively from Italy (i.e. Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome, Venice) to Switzerland (i.e. Basel, Berne, Chur, Lausanne, Zurich). Later Austria, Germany and France follow and art collectors begin to show more and more interest in his work.
Oscar Barblan lived and worked in Basel for over forty years: "Here I found structure and forbearance, the values which allowed me to harness and at the same time strengthen my Mediterranean sunlikeness in a steady frame". Here, in the City on the Rhine, he finds and achieves his "inner landscape" which he had been striving for since his early experiences on Mallorca. Furthermore, in the Seventies he creates – in addition to oil paintings, watercolours and drawings – a new, very successful form of expression: the mixed technique, which combines the spontaneity of shapes with sophisticated drawing strokes and a lively and transparent range of colours.
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Oscar Barblan (1909-1987)
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