(1908-2001) Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola Balthus was an infant prodigy
- what else could he have been with such a name but an important French painter?
His parents were aristocratic Poles, and were friends with Andre Derain and
Pierre Bonnard, all of whom he painted. From 1961 to 1977 he was the Director
of the French Academy in Rome, but has spent most his life working quietly and
slowly in Switzerland or France. His distinctive, erotically charged figures,
mainly concerned with adolescent girls, have worldwide appeal.
his many paintings of pre-teen and teenage girls are among his most controversial,
it is argued by some that this in no way indicates an obsession or fetish on
the part of Balthus. According to the eldest son of Balthus, Stanislas Klossowski
de Rola, if there is any obsession, it's "in the tye of the beholder".
"The girls are in fact untouchable archetypes of purity belonging to a
higher realm. Their very youth is the emblem of an ageless body of glory, as
adolescence aptly symbolizes that heavenward state of growth to which Plato
refers to in the 'Timaeus'. ... It is indeed unfortunate that the sacred nature
of eroticism is all too often associated with pornography and libidinousness,
a deplorable confusion that obscures the real meaning of such esoteric works
ultimately relating to the divine cosmic mysteries of love and desire."
Balthus was always extremely controversial.
The Surrealists admired him a great deal but he was generally considered private,
evocative, and mysterious -- just like his paintings of landscapes, still
lifes, street scenes and women.