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The Figurative and Scandalous Balthus

The Figurative and Scandalous Balthus

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Published by Sam Boustani
Count Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus (1908-2001), French painter, was born in Paris and began painting at the age of sixteen. Although, his first published work was at the age of 12—a collection of 40 sketches about his lost cat, called Mitsou. He was the son of Polish art historian and painter, Erich Klossowski and the painter Elizabeth Dorothea.
Count Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus (1908-2001), French painter, was born in Paris and began painting at the age of sixteen. Although, his first published work was at the age of 12—a collection of 40 sketches about his lost cat, called Mitsou. He was the son of Polish art historian and painter, Erich Klossowski and the painter Elizabeth Dorothea.

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Published by: Sam Boustani on Jun 24, 2008
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BoustaniWassim BoustaniProfessor SchwabachArt History II, Section V11 May 2004The Figurative and Scandalous BalthusCount Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus (1908-2001), French painter, was born in Paris and began painting at the age of sixteen. Although, his first published work was at the age of 12—a collection of 40 sketches about his lost cat, calledMitsou. He was the son of Polish art historian and painter, Erich Klossowski and the painter Elizabeth Dorothea. Balthus was influenced by Bonnard up to 1930, where hischaracteristic style became fixed. He was now a figurative artist, opposed to all forms of abstraction. In 1930 and 1931, he served in the French military in Morocco, and returnedto Paris in 1932 where he met famous painters. (Artchive)His 1935 La Lecon de guitare caused scandal at its exhibition in 1977 at a galleryin New York, because it showed a female teacher holding a child in a compromising position on her lap. Balthus later admitted that he intended to shock the public, and later  prohibited its reproduction in the hopes of removing it from his works.In the 1930s, Balthus met Alberto Giacometti whom became his best friend andconsultant on all artistic matters. In 1938, the New York gallery Pierre Matisse organizedits first Balthus exhibition. In 1941, Picasso bought Balthus' painting Les Enfants1
 
BoustaniBlanchard. In 1942, Balthus returned to Switzerland with Antoinette to Savoya, wherehis son Stanislas was born. In 1944, his son Thadée was born.He produced paintings in muted tones based on the observation of things and people. He refused to draw imaginary worlds, but instead limited himself to realism.After 1945, his subject-matter changed to nude adolescent girls caught sleeping or in private moments, almost perversely. He detested the fact that painting became anoccasion for discussion, because for him it was impossible to reduce it to any language.He went on to draft the stage sets and costumes for a number of plays. Thefinancial support of friends consisting of collectors and art dealers permitted him a goodstandard of living. In 1956, he exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In1961, he was assigned as director of the Academie de France in Rome. In 1962, on a tripto Japan, he met Setsuko Ideta, whom he married five years later. His third son Fumiowas born in 1968, but died only two years later. In 1973, his daughter Harumi was born.(Louis)In 1977, Balthus left Rome for Switzerland, where he remained until his death.The Grand Chalet was a four-storey building with over 100 windows, which had servedas a hotel before his arrival. He could only afford the Chalet with the help of a loan fromPierre Matisse. He had to regularly sell paintings to support its upkeep, as well as hislifestyle. His work continued to be exhibited internationally. In 1998, the University of 2
 
BoustaniWroclaw (Poland) presented him with an honorary doctorate. In 2000, the Catalogueraisonné with Balthus' complete works was published. (AP)Balthus' friends were such famous contemporaries as Rilke, Picasso, Miró, Dalí,the Giacomettis, Braque and the film maker Federico Fellini. He remained faithful tofigurative painting during the 20
th
century, even through the tides of Cubism andSurrealism. Picasso once said of him: "Balthus is so much better than all these youngartists who do nothing but copy me. He is a real painter." As his sight worsened with oldage, he moved to landscape painting. (Louis)After his death in 2001, Paris reacted with sorrow. France’s president JacquesChirac wrote: "An artist of exceptional talent both in drawing and painting, Balthus gavehimself entirely to his art which he wanted to make timeless." Prime Minister LionelJospin said: "France has lost an artist who left a deep mark on contemporary art."Balthus will be known for his provocative paintings of young women, but also of his dreamlike Parisian street scenes and conventional landscapes. He remained a mysteryto all but a few good friends. His own self-analysis was quoted to be "Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known." There was gossip that he invented the title of Count and thatRola was merely a revision of the Lake Geneva village of Role where he lived with hisfirst wife. A longtime heavy smoker, Balthus was frail in his final years and was caredfor by his second wife, the Japanese artist Setsuko Setsuko -- 35 years younger than him.3

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