Monday, April 23, 2012

Balthus: (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola)

The Cat in the mirror II
oil on canvas
200 x 170cm
private collection

Count Balthasar Klossowski (or Klossowski) de Rola (1908 – 2001), known as Balthus, was an esteemed Polish-French modern artist. In his formative years his art was sponsored by Rainer Maria Rilke who acted as Balthus’s mentor, Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. His father, Erich Klossowski, a noted art historian who wrote a monograph on Daumier, and his mother Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro (known as the painter Baladine Klossowska; she engaged in a long-lasting relationship with Rainer Maria Rilke, providing etchings to accompany many of Rilke's poems. ) were part of the cultural elite in Paris. In 1921 Mitsou, a book which included forty drawings by Balthus, was published. It depicted the story of a young boy and his cat, with a preface by Balthus's mentor, Rainer Maria Rilke.

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. He felt his paintings should only be seen - not read about or read into. For this reason, there may be various names given to any particular Balthus painting for the purpose of identification.

Throughout his career, Balthus rejected the usual conventions of the art world. A telegram sent to the Tate Gallery as it prepared for its 1968 retrospective of his works read: "NO BIOGRAPHICAL DETAILS. BEGIN: BALTHUS IS A PAINTER OF WHOM NOTHING IS KNOWN. NOW LET US LOOK AT THE PICTURES. REGARDS. B."

Prime Ministers and rock stars alike attended the funeral of Balthus in 2001. Bono, lead-singer of U2, sang for the hundreds of mourners at the funeral, including the President of France, the Prince Sadruddhin Aga Khan, supermodel Elle McPherson, and Cartier-Bresson.

Balthus felt the painting was very similar to praying.
Balthus was one of the few living artists to be represented in the Louvre Museum.
Balthus's painting was praised and acquired by Pablo Picasso for his private collection.