Balthus or a treatise on style

A young girl, a cat, a mirror… We thought that we already knew everything there was to know about Balthus. But in Riehen, Switzerland, the Beyeler Foundation is staging an enlightened show on the enigmatic work of this artist. From naked bodies to serene landscapes… When we think of Balthus, we often think of his pale, consenting young ladies, surprised in dubious positions. But Balthus offers more than striking images of these sleeping beauties, these chrysalids who disturb as much as they enchant. Above all, Balthus is associated with the Italian countryside and the landscapes of the Morvan region, nostalgia for a tranquil world. In Arezzo, the painter’s vision was shaken up when he discovered the frescoes of Piero della Francesca, enhanced by a certain buzz in the air… Born in 1908 in Paris and of Polish descent, Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, better known as Balthus, spent part of his childhood in Switzerland. He became close to artists Bonnard and Derain, and with the encouragement of Rilke, he chose painting from an early age. Apart from perhaps Henri Michaux, an unclassifiable artist, Balthus had no equivalents this century. And yet, on a technical level, nothing seems to stand out in particular. Perhaps because style and great art ultimately consist in covering up one’s game. This withdrawal, this masterly discretion is undoubtedly what makes him one of the great 20th century masters. Singlehandedly, he encapsulates an original combination of Quattrocento painting, Japanese poetry, and the landscapes of Gustave Courbet. In short, something truly magical. But to get there, he’d have to put in time. His path wasn’t that straightforward. When Balthus was first shown in Pierre Loeb’s gallery, in 1934, the failure was excruciating: not a single work sold. It wasn’t until 1966, with the retrospective at the Musée des...

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Balthus exhibition moves to the Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong

From 28 May until 15 August 2015, the Hong Kong branch of the Gagosian Gallery is holding the exhibition “Balthus”, a retrospective dedicated to the work of the modern Polish-French artist Balthasar Klossowski, known by the pseudonym Balthus. The exhibition follows “Balthus: The Last Studies”, presented at the Gagosian Gallery of New York in 2013-2014, and “Balthus”, at the Gagosian Gallery in Paris from 14 January until 28 February 2015, marking the first presentation of his works in Hong Kong for 20 years. Born in Paris, Balthasar Klossowski (1908-2001) is a self-taught figurative painter, known for his erotic depictions. The artist rejects all attempts at analysis of his work, declaring that his works simply depict some instances of infantile sexuality and the loss of innocence. His first exhibition, in the Galerie Pierre, Paris, in 1934, was a scandal. His works, comprising paintings, drawings, and watercolours, have been included in various important public and private...

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“Balthus” at Gagosian Gallery Paris

Running from 14 January until 28 February 2015, Gagosian Gallery Paris is to host the exhibition “Balthus” featuring the work of Polish-French Modern artist Balthasar Klossowski, best known as Balthus. Following the 2013 exhibition “Balthus: The Last Studies” at Gagosian New York in 2013, this retrospective is to feature works spanning the artist’s career including paintings, drawings, and photographs and is the first presentation of Balthus’ work to been shown in France since his retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in the early 1980s. “Balthus was the reclusive painter of charged and disquieting narrative scenes, whose inspirative sources and embrace of exquisitely rigorous technique reach back to the early Renaissance, though with a subversive modern twist,” explains the gallery. Highlights include an oil painting Portrait of Pierre Leyris (1932–33) as well as Young Girl in Amazonian Costume (1932), shown at his infamous debut exhibition at Galerie Pierre in 1934. Born in Paris in 1908, Balthus’ work is notorious for his erotic depictions, however the artist rejects this analysis of his work, claiming that it simply recognises the uncomfortable facts of children’s sexuality. He is best known for his paintings, drawings and watercolour...

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Balthus exhibition cancelled by Museum Folkwang

Essen, 10 February 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA). Following the controversy reported by the German newspaper Die Zeit, the Museum Folkwang in Essen has taken the decision to cancel its forthcoming exhibition “Balthus: the Last Pictures”. The opening was planned for April and should have included 2,000 photographs taken by the artist. The photographs by the Franco-Polish artist Balthus (1908-2001) focus, in the most part, on his model Anna, who posed for him between the ages of 8 and 16. The Museum Folkwang explained their concerns regarding the legal consequences which could arise as a result of this exhibition, including possible closure, by way of justifying its decision to cancel. Certain critics, featured in German newspaper Die Zeit, commented that the ambiguous nature of the images could be misinterpreted as pornographic, with young girls striking lascivious and perturbing poses. Gagosian in New York has already exhibited 155 of these photographs, in parallel with a major Balthus show at the Met, “Balthus: Cats and Girls – Paintings and Provocations”, which closed on 12 January. This exhibition signalled the first time these photographs were displayed to the public, given that this was the first occasion that Balthus’s widow, daughter and Anna had given their permission for the images to be exhibited. Balthus created his evocative series of young girls from 1934 onwards, for which he is renowned, but which continue to be a source of...

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Balthus’s Cats and Girls at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York, 13 September 2013, Art Media Agency (AMA). The Metropolitan Museum of Art is to open “Balthus: Cats and Girls – Paintings and Provocations” on 25 September 2013, with the show continuing until 12 January 2014. The exhibition is to present 35 paintings by the French painter described by the Met as “his most iconic”. Presenting a dark portrait of adolescence, the pieces present young girls described by the museum as “hovering between innocence and knowledge”. Frequently noted for their uncomfortably erotic, and antithetically austere, undertones, Balthus’s subjects are frequently accompanied by the image of an enigmatic cat — often said to be the artist himself. The exhibition is to be arranged chronologically, and is also to feature 40 ink drawings from the book Mitsou — a illustrated story about a stray cat of the same name — created in 1919 when the artist was just 11. Previously thought to have been lost, these drawings have never previously been on public display. Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski, 1908-2001) was born in Paris. “Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations” is organised by Sabine Rewald, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator for Modern Art in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The last exhibition on Balthus’s work in the U.S. was held in 1984 at the Metropolitan...

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