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BALTHUS

"Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus, French painter. From a highly cultivated family background, he began painting at the age of sixteen. He met Rilke - who wrote the preface for a collection of his drawings - and Bonnard, who was a strong influence on him up to 1930. It was at this time that the characteristics of his style became fixed: a convinced figurative artist and opposed to all forms of abstraction, his draughtsmanship is incisive and of great precision. He produced matte paintings, in muted tones, founded on strict observation and internalization of things and people. In 1933, The Street caught the attention of the Surrealists because of its strange, almost dreamlike atmosphere: all the figures seem indifferent to one another and carve up the space into a series of continuous private worlds. Even if he was at that time associated with Artaud (he did the sets for his Cenci) and with Giacometti, Balthus refused to call on an imaginary world in any way. In fact his pre-war painting is closer to realism and Neue Sachlichkeit, if not indeed to Courbet (The Mountain, 1937). After 1945, his painting became denser, while his subject-matter changed. The nude made its appearance and, in particular, adolescent girls caught sleeping or in equivocal private moments - half-way between innocence and perversity. But the rigorous composition and slow execution remained unchanged (Balthus would happily spend years on a single canvas, and go on to produce variants). He kept too the love of his craft, admiring Piero della Francesca and oriental painting, in which he discovered examples of work concerned not with realistic representation but with 'identification'. In his canvases, time is frozen, the traffic of life is stilled, gestures are suspended before they can declare their purpose: the scene is there to be uncovered by anyone who can find mystery in the anodyne. 'We did not know how to see reality and all the disturbing things our apartments, our loved ones and our streets conceal,' wrote Albert Camus in 1949 in the preface to one of Balthus's rare exhibitions. Yet the painter lamented the loss of craft among his contemporaries - virtually the only exceptions being Bonnard, Braque and Rouan (whom he had met, in fact, at the Villa Medici, of which he was director from 1961 to 1977). He deplored, too, the fact that painting so often became an occasion for discussion, while for him it remained quite irreducible to any language."

- Text from "ART20, The Thames and Hudson Multimedia Dictionary of Modern Art"


Balthus

Le partie de cartes
The Card Game
1948-50
Oil on canvas
140 x 194 cm (55 x 76 3/8 in)
Collection Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid


Balthus

Le Chat au miroir III
Cat with Mirror III
1989-94
Oil on canvas
200 x 195 cm (78 3/4 x 76 3/4 in)
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich


Balthus

Le Chat au miroir III
Cat with Mirror III
Detail of young woman
1989-94
Oil on canvas
200 x 195 cm (78 3/4 x 76 3/4 in)
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich


Balthus

Le Chat au miroir III
Cat with Mirror III
Detail of cat
1989-94
Oil on canvas
200 x 195 cm (78 3/4 x 76 3/4 in)
Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich


Balthus

Andre Derain
1936
Oil on wood
112.7 x 72.4 cm (44 3/8 x 28 1/2 in)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York


Balthus

Les beaux jours
Golden Days
1944-45
Oil on canvas
148 x 200 cm (58 1/4 x 78 1/4 in)
Hirshorn Museum, Washington


Balthus

La patience
The Game of Patience, or Solitaire
1943
Oil on canvas
161 x 163.8 cm (63 3/8 x 64 1/2 in)
The Art Institute of Chicago


Balthus

Le passage du Commerce Saint-Andre
1952-54
Oil on canvas
294 x 330 cm (115 3/4 x 130 in)
Private collection


Balthus

Le salon
The Drawing-room
1942
Oil on canvas
114.3 x 146 cm (45 x 57 1/2 in)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York


Balthus

Autoportrait
Self-portrait
1940
Oil on canvas
44 x 32 cm (17 3/8 x 12 3/8 in)
Private collection


Balthus

La rue
The Street
1933-35
Oil on canvas
195 x 240 cm (76 3/4 x 94 1/2 in)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York


Balthus

Therese
1938
Oil on canvas
100.3 x 81.3 cm (39 1/2 x 32 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Balthus

La jupe blanche
The White Skirt
1937
Oil on canvas
130 x 162 cm (51 1/8 x 63 3/4 in)
Private collection