Article Published on French Artist Siméon Pelénc (1873-1935)

April 24, 2015

I recently had an article published in the California State Library Foundation Bulletin about Siméon Pelénc (1873-1935):

Click to access Bulletin111.pdf

Siméon Pélenc was born and raised in Cannes, France. He hoped to become an architect and was an accomplished draftsman, but perhaps was best known for his murals and opera set designs. He settled in San Francisco, California in 1916. A study of San Francisco city directories indicates that Pélenc did not advertise as an artist for several years while he taught French to journalists in the Chronicle Building. By 1925, he occupied a studio located at 728 Montgomery Street and resided with his second wife Helen at various locations adjacent to the French Quarter.

Pelénc was a scenic painter who worked in oils and temperas. Some of his early work employed pointillism, a technique of painting in regular dots or small dashes of pure color, which from a distance created a vibrant effect. However, he was best remembered for introducing Italian sgraffiti techniques of mural painting to California. The Northern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects invited Pelénc (who was a member) to participate in Exhibit and Honor Awards for Craftsmanship in efforts to revive “the splendor of fresco and sgraffito” in the region in 1927, 1928, and 1929.

“The word, “fresco” comes from an Italian word meaning “wet” or “damp” and the fresco painter does not paint his picture on the wall it is meant to adorn; he makes it become part of the wall, in the same manner in which nature makes marble — by adding mineral pigments to the plaster while it is still wet.

Pelénc’s credo was “Every effort in life teaches us something and this accumulated gain is what makes the big man out of the little man.”

I have found that researching Pelénc has made me want to draw with less realism. The following picture was inspired by a German example of ceramic sgraffiti with light/dark reversed.

Four birds in a stylized design by Meredith Eliassen, 2012.

Four birds in a stylized design by Meredith Eliassen, 2012.

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