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The URL internet address of this Balthus page is:




as mentioned at  PAT Dr Thibault Special4u Special4u





BALTHUS, Baltusz Klossowski de Rola,


a French painter, 1908-2001


Texts and pictures 2009 retrieved from:


Grove dictionary of Art


Oxford Art Online


The New York Museum of Modern Art


Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski de Rola)






Since 1933 by Balthus,


"Guitar Lesson" 1934 at:


André Derain 1936,




About Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski de Rola)


by Jean Clair at Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


Source: Oxford Art Online


French painter, illustrator and stage designer 1908-2001.


Appreciated for many years by only a handful of collectors,

and ostensibly out of step with the modern movement,

Balthus’ classically inspired work won the recognition

and admiration of a wider public only late in his career.


Although he received no formal training,

he came from a highly artistic family background.


His father, Erich Klossowski (1875–1949),

was a painter and art historian,

born to an aristocratic family in East Prussia

and the author of a book on Daumier;

his brother, Pierre Klossowski,

was to become a painter and writer;

and his mother, Elizabeth Spiro, was also a painter.


Beginning in 1919, she engaged, under the name of Baladine,

in a long-lasting relationship with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke,

providing etchings to accompany many of his poems.


In this environment Balthus met the writers André Gide and

Pierre-Jean Jouve, as well as Pierre Bonnard, who gave him

his earliest guidance. Rilke also acted as Balthus’s mentor,

writing the preface for an album of drawings by the 13-year-old

artist entitled Mitsou (Zurich, 1921), the story of a cat in which

narrative themes and stylistic traits of the later work are already



After living in Berlin from 1921 to 1924, Balthus returned to Paris;

there he studied Old Master paintings in the Louvre, particularly

those of Poussin. In 1926 he went to Tuscany to study the

frescoes of Piero della Francesca.


Apart from a cycle of religious paintings in tempera (1927)

for the church of Beatenberg, near Interlaken, his earliest

works are Parisian scenes, which betray influences not only

from Old Masters but also from his friends Pierre Bonnard and

André Derain.


The culminating work of this first period is The Street

(1933; New York, MOMA), in which the severe geometry

of the Quattrocento is blended with memories of the

illustrations for the children’s story Struwwelpeter by

Heinrich Hoffmann, and those

for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel.


In April 1934 Balthus exhibited a group of erotic paintings,

including Cathy Dressing (1933; Paris, Pompidou),

based on illustrations he had done in 1933 for Emily Brontë’s

Wuthering Heights, and the Guitar Lesson (1934; priv. col.,

see 1983 exh. cat., p. 343), at Pierre Loeb’s Galerie Pierre.


Their unusual character and overt sexuality, allied to the

fact that Loeb was then representing the Surrealists, and

that the exhibition was enthusiastically reviewed by

Antonin Artaud, created the false myth of Balthus as a



Through Artaud, Balthus became involved with stage design

(Artaud’s Les Cenci, adapted from P. B. Shelley, Mary Shelley,

and Stendhal, Folies-Wagram, 1935), an activity crowned by

his sets for a production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte at

Aix-en-Provence in 1950.


During this period Balthus also established himself as an

outstanding portrait painter with penetrating studies

of André Derain (1936 New York MOMA) and

Miró and his Daughter Dolores

(1937–8 New York MOMA),

while continuing to explore a troubling eroticism in

pictures of childhood and puberty such as

Thérèse Dreaming

(1938; private col, see 1983 catalogue, no. 52),,

and at Google images),

The Children

(1937, Louvre) once owned by Picasso, and

The Salon (1941–3 Minneapolis, MN), Patience, Cathy 1933...


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.


His interest in landscape was further confirmed when he

took refuge from the war at Champrovent in Savoie and

matured after his move c. 1954–5 to the château de Chassy

in the romantic Morvan mountains in Burgundy.


The period at Chassy is distinguished by a marked

lightening of the palette, dryness of the paint surface,

occasionally mannered systematic brushwork and

conspicuous lack of depth, as in

Large Landscape with Trees (the Triangular Field)

(1955; H. Gomès priv. col., see 1983 exh. cat., p. 181).


In 1950, while still living in Paris, he began studies for two

paintings that rank as masterpieces:

The Room (1952–4; priv. col., see 1983 exh. cat., p. 171)

and Passage du Commerce-St-André (1952–4; priv. col.,

see 1983 exh. cat., p. 175).


The claustrophobic atmosphere of the former, full of

intrigue and anxiety, could be taken as an illustration

of Artaud’s concept of the Theatre of Cruelty, although

in mood it is also reminiscent of Henry Füseli.


The other is a companion piece to his earlier painting

The Street. Taking as its setting a pedestrian alley

near where Balthus lived in Paris (his studio was in

the Cour de Rohan near the Odéon), it is also an

allegory of the ages of man, and a comment on history,

particularly on the French Revolutionary events with

which this street was closely associated.


In 1961 André Malraux, then French Minister of Culture,

appointed Balthus as Director of the Académie de France

in the Villa Medici, Rome, where he remained until 1977.

This brought about an abrupt change of direction in his

work, as his energies became directed by his taste for

the theatre and for history.


He supervised the restoration of the Villa Medici,

rediscovering ancient frescoes, and replanted the

gardens in their old splendour.


His few paintings from this period, such as the

Turkish Room (1966; Paris, Pompidou), and some

from later years, as in the Painter and his Model

(1981; Paris, Pompidou), are set in and around the villa.

They betray a final influence, that of Japanese art,

confirmed by a trip to Japan in 1962, where he met

his second wife.



From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press



Publication Excerpts

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 165

Though set in a real place—the rue Bourbon-le-Château, ParisThe Street has the intensity of a dream. The figures in this strange frozen dance are precisely placed in a shallow, friezelike line, yet except for the struggling couple on the left, they don't interact at all. The toque-wearing chef isn't even human—he is a pavement sign for a restaurant—but he stands no more stiffly than the other characters, who, stylized and solid, seem less to walk than to pose.

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. But another, quite different influence links him to his Surrealist peers: long after painting The Street, he would still say that he had never stopped seeing things as he saw them in childhood. He well knew children's books such as Lewis Carroll's "Alice" stories, with their illustrations by John Tenniel, and, indeed, the girl caught in the tussle has been said to be Alice herself; the youth in the center resembles Tweedledum or Tweedledee; and the man with the plank could be Carroll's carpenter, without his walrus companion-though his simultaneous resemblance to a figure in Piero's Discovery and Proving of the True Cross, at Arezzo (c. 1455), suggests a different symbolic register.



Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski de Rola) [13]


Balthus (Baltusz Klossowski de Rola)


Painting and Sculpture [1971]


Painting [1207]

Date: 1933