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Mural Artist Belle Baranceanu


On this date in 1912, 10-year-old Belle Goldschlager was preparing for a recital in Williston’s Library Auditorium. Belle was born in Chicago in 1902; but grew up on her grandparent’s farm, outside Williston. Belle showed a love for music, dance, and drawing, passions she would eventually pursue further by attending the Minneapolis School of Art, graduating in 1925. Although Belle continued to love music and dance, it was visual art that became her career.

Belle went on to study under painter Anthony Angarola, learning the Modernist style known as linear expressionism. Angarola not only influenced Belle artistically, she also fell in love with him. They became engaged, but Angarola died in 1932 after a car accident. It was then that Belle changed her name from Goldschlager to Baranceanu, her mother’s maiden name. She would never marry.

In 1933, Belle Baranceanu moved to San Diego. It was there that she created the most well-known and celebrated works of her career, including several that were part of the federally-funded mural projects under President Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Her favorite, largest, and final creation was “The Seven Arts Mural,” created in 1939. Painted on the auditorium walls of the La Jolla High School, it depicted each of the seven arts: literature, dance, theater, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Belle spent the latter portion of her career focused on teaching at the San Diego School of Art and Crafts, the Francis Parker School, and California Western University. She considered teaching a creative act, inspired by the student, stating:

“…a child is born with every quality that a creative human being needs … imagination, the feelings to rise above the earth and rationality. … Perception, grasping the essence of a thing seen for the first time. … Insight, feeling the vibrations of human emotion before they become visible. … Enthusiasm, applying freshly and eagerly to each new task. … Spontaneity, reacting to life and its steadily changing aspects.”

Belle Baranceanu remained active in the San Diego art community until her death in 1988. Recently, in the summer of 2017, the La Jolla Historical Society presented an exhibition of her work, “Belle Baranceanu: The La Jolla Murals.” Her life as an artist, and as a woman, remain relevant today.

Written by Maria Witham

The Williston Graphic, Nov. 21, 1912 p.3

The Williston Graphic, Aug. 10, 1911 p.1

Oral history interview with Belle Baranceanu and Hilda Preibisius, 1964 August 1. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.