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Balthus Photo

Balthus is one of those rare painters who preferred to have little known about them or their work. He firmly maintained that art is meant to be seen and not read about, very little is known to this day about Balthus’s private life – which is exactly the way he intended it to be. Most of his exhibitions contain no biographical element, a rarity amongst other great artists. Balthus is regarded as the last master of figurative art in the European tradition. A reclusive artist with an aristocratic lineage, who made a name for himself due to his aesthetic and somewhat troubling paintings of young girls and cats. Most of the girls in his paintings portray girls as coming-of-age in a sense, ready for the world and on the lookout for their awakening. There are also underlying elements of a dreamlike trance and exoticness in Balthus’s paintings.

Balthasar Klossowski was born in 1908 in Paris France to a well-known art historian and a socialite mother who was very popular amongst the elite of Paris. Balthus was noted for his use of deep browns to accentuate the main object in his paintings, also famous were his shadows often found in his paintings. The main object – either girl or cat – was always found to have a shadow in the painting which was quite bizarre. Balthus’s obsession with painting young girls was never fully understood, mainly due to his reclusive behaviour and very little knowledge about his private life. For many, his paintings bordered on inappropriate and obsessive. This can be due to the fact that the young girls in his works aren’t shown in an innocent light but rather in a fully charged, sexual awakening light – there is a strong undertone of erotic in his work. This fascination made many refer to him as one of the creepiest figures of art as well. Similar was his love for cats, which also feature predominantly in his paintings. As in Balthus’s work, Therese Dreaming which displayed the artists regular features a young girl and cat both. The painting is rich in brown colors giving the background a fading look which makes the girl stand out more along with the cat. The girl in the painting looks as if she is almost yawning, and happens to be in a school uniform perhaps. Due to her posture the viewer can also easily make out her under garments and pubescent legs. And if the painting couldn’t get any more bizarre at the feet of the girl is a cat drinking milk from a saucer.  Balthus’s works weren’t well known for their hidden meanings or agendas. In fact most of Balthus’s paintings confuse the viewer as to what the artist is even trying to say…if anything. Balthus’s famous quite regarding his paintings was that ‘’…everyone wants to see what they want to see.’

Despite the borderline inappropriate tag attached to his work, Balthus’s paintings have been sold for as much as $6 million at auctions, showing that there is definitely an appetite for his work. For Balthus art was where he was able to show the world beauty, and for him art became his prayer. Balthus would shut himself up for days in his studio all by himself to finish a painting. At the end of this shut down period Balthus would present a painting which would certainly cause a sensation.

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