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Balthus Photo

Balthus

French Painter, Illustrator, and Theatrical Set Designer

Born: February 29, 1908 - Paris, France

Died: February 18, 2001 - Rossiniere, Switzerland

Balthus Timeline

Quotes

"Painting is a language which cannot be replaced by another language, I don't know what to say about what I paint, really."
Balthus
"Balthus is a painter about whom nothing is known."
Balthus
"I was born in this century, but I belong much more to the 19th century."
Balthus
"Everything now is pornographic. Advertising is pornographic. You see a young woman putting on some beauty product who looks like she's having an orgasm. I've never made anything pornographic."
Balthus
"The subject has no importance. The subject for me is always a pretext to make a painting."
Balthus
"One must always draw, draw with the eyes, when one cannot draw with a pencil."
Balthus
"Painting is the passage from the chaos of emotions to the order of the possible."
Balthus

"I always feel the desire to look for the extraordinary in ordinary things; to suggest, not to impose, to leave always with a slight touch of mystery in my paintings.""

Balthus Signature

Synopsis

An unusual figure in the history of 20th century painting, Balthus both traveled among and drew upon the work of other major artists of his time, while at the same time following a unique individual trajectory. He was mentored by, friends of, and/or even collaborated with seminal creative figures from different eras, including Antonin Artaud, André Breton, and Rainer Maria Rilke, while cultivating his own highly refined style of painting. The scenes he usually depicted were very ordinary bourgeois interiors or outdoor settings, which nonetheless managed to reveal the heightened inner states of his subjects (often young females) as well as the states of mind of those who might be viewing them.

Key Ideas

Balthus's work demonstrates a commitment to classical painting while applying those techniques upon subject matter that reflects the concerns of the modern era in a highly restrained yet nonetheless often charged manner, revealing signs of sexuality, social transgression and anomie.
His channeling of the concerns of numerous thinkers and practitioners from other creative disciplines included the distillation of ideas and attitudes from individuals and artistic movements. Some ideas included renderings of exceptional psychological states and licentious interpersonal encounters.
Balthus's often disturbing imagery brings to the fore questions of propriety of displaying such works in public museums. His blatant violations of taboo topics were acceptable in the context of the French libertine avant-garde, but are now deemed improper by liberal-minded audiences.
His work in set design for stage production in ballet, opera and theater informed his own narrative ability to impart dramatic trajectories to the scenes he portrayed in his paintings of ordinary settings.
His investment in figurative image-making helped reinforce the value of representational painting as a critical force in a century which saw many artistic movements turn toward abstraction.

Biography

Balthus Photo

Childhood

Balthus (originally named Balthasar Klossowski) was born in Paris, France to an artistic family; his father was a prominent art historian and his mother was a painter. He was exposed at an early age to the arts and social scene in Paris at the turn of the 20th century, including his mentor (and his mother's lover) the celebrated poet Rainer Maria Rilke. His older brother Pierre was also a noted artist, author, philosopher and translator, whose own circle of acquaintances and influences included Georges Bataille. Bataille's interest in transgression - including ideas of sado-masochism studied in the work of the Marquis de Sade - would certainly have swirled around Balthus by way of his brother.

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Balthus Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Balthus
Interactive chart with Balthus's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Édouard ManetÉdouard Manet
Jean-Auguste-Dominique IngresJean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Gustave CourbetGustave Courbet
Nicolas PoussinNicolas Poussin

Personal Contacts

Antonin ArtaudAntonin Artaud
Man RayMan Ray
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Alberto GiacomettiAlberto Giacometti
Joan MiróJoan Miró

Movements

RenaissanceRenaissance
Neo-ExpressionismNeo-Expressionism
SurrealismSurrealism
RealismRealism
NeoclassicismNeoclassicism

Influences on Artist
Balthus
Balthus
Years Worked: 1920s-2001
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Francis BaconFrancis Bacon
Lucian FreudLucian Freud
John CurrinJohn Currin
Alex KatzAlex Katz

Personal Contacts

Antonin ArtaudAntonin Artaud
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Man RayMan Ray
Joan MiróJoan Miró

Movements

Neo-ExpressionismNeo-Expressionism
SurrealismSurrealism
NeoclassicismNeoclassicism

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Content compiled and written by Rachel Cohen

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Cohen
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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