27 October 2009


Balthus (1908-2001) was a Polish-French modern artist. Though he wasn't formally trained, he grew up in a very artistic climate. Both of his parents were artists, and for some time his mother was illustrating Rainer Marie Rilke's poems, putting Balthus in close contact with this renowned poet, as well as Andre Gide and painter Pierre Bonnard. As he reached maturity, he spent some time in Berlin and Tuscany, and finally settled in Paris, where he produced his first early paintings of Parisian street scenes largely inspired by Old Masters. In 1934 Balthus exhibited a series of erotic paintings, which were reviewed by the Surrealists (specifically Antonin Artaud), establishing a superficial connection to the movement. He established a friendship with Artaud, who got him into stage design. Balthus did not adhere to Surrealism, however. He continued to produce sexually charged paintings, as well as portraits of the burgeoning artists such as Joan Miro and Andre Derain. Shortly thereafter, Balthus returned to landscape painting. In 1961, he was appointed the Director of the Academie de France in the Villa Medici. He took up a strong interest in history, theater, and Japanese art, and in this realm he remained for the rest of his life.

The Street, 1933

Guitar Lesson, 1934

"Part of the work's tension comes from the diversity in the traditions it fuses. Its receding architectural perspective emulates Renaissance geometry, for Balthus much admired Quattrocento artists, particularly Piero della Francesca."

Woman with Violin, 1936

Andre Derain, 1936

Joan Miro and his Daughter Dolores, 1937-38

The Mountain, 1937

"In the mid-1930s Balthus returned to his earlier interest in landscape, notably in The Mountain (Summer) (1937; New York, Met.), his largest work to date. Conceived in homage to Poussin, and especially Courbet, this represents memories of the mountainous terrain near Berne in which he had lived as a child and to which he was to return in 1977."

Still Life with Figure, 1940

The Living Room, 1942

Sleeping Girl, 1943
"The private worlds of day-time reverie and sleep had been the preferred themes of Balthus's work since the mid-1930s... the awkward position of her arm suggests that her sleep might be feigned, and reminds us that the scene as a whole has been contrived by the artist. The woman's dress front appears casually undone, but its erotic appeal seems, again, quite calculated."

The Golden Days, 1944-46

The Room, 1952

Study of a Nude, 1964

The Turkish Room, 1966

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