Balthus. Photo by Alvaro Canovas
Balthus was a reclusive painter of charged and disquieting narrative scenes. Skirting avant-garde movements such as Surrealism, Balthus appropriated the techniques of such antecedents as Piero della Francesca and Gustave Courbet to depict the physical and psychic struggles of adolescence. Casting viewers as voyeurs of brooding pubescent female subjects, he scandalized Parisian audiences with his first gallery exhibition at Galerie Pierre, Paris in 1934. In the sixty years that followed, Balthus cultivated a self-taught classicism—the inspirative sources and rigorous technique of which are so apparent in his interior portraits, street scenes, and landscapes—ultimately serving as a framework for more enigmatic and subversive artistic investigations.
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) was born in 1908 in Paris, and died in 2001 in Rossinière, Switzerland. Balthus's first major museum exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1956. Other important exhibitions include Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (1966); “A Retospective Exhibition,” Tate, London (1968); the 39th Biennale di Venezia (1980); “Balthus in Chicago,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1980); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1983–84, traveled to Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Japan (1984); Musée cantonal des beaux-arts de Lausanne, Switzerland (1993); Hong Kong Museum of Art (1995); Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2001); “Time Suspended. Paintings and Drawings 1932–1960,” Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2007); “100th Anniversary,” Foundation Pierre Gianadda, Switzerland (2008); Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (2014, traveled to Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Japan); “Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013–14); and Scuderie del Quirinale and Villa Medici, Rome (2015).