Sunday, March 7, 2010

Balthus: It's in the Details

I've recently been reminded of the painter Balthus, one of my favorite enigmatic artists. I have two books on Balthus. One was written by his son, Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, and the other (above) by Jean Leymarie . But I've not paid attention to them for a while.

I happened upon some photographs of Balthus taken in 1956 at the blog of Nick Heyward that are absolutely riveting. From what I understand, Balthus avoided the camera, so these views with their dark moody blues are perhaps rare as well. I've kept a postcard of Jeune Fille a la Fenetre - Girl at the Window (1955) for quite some time. It was exciting to see the photograph of the model in the actual setting as well as other views of the interior spaces of the Chateau de Chassy where Balthus lived and painted .

Nick Heyward's post crystalized my understanding of what exactly it is that keeps drawing me back to these paintings. They are strange, to be sure. . . a plus in my book. Their surreal settings make me feel a bit uneasy. . . I like for a painting to do that. But what I connect to is Balthus' use of pattern. I spent some time looking at the paintings with a fresh eye and noticed these marvelous details:

The orange shoes:

The plaid skirt:

The patterned drapes and carpets:

And this detail from The Turkish Room, so profusely ornamented that it takes my breath away:

Collage-wise I would say that I feel a Balthus Tribute coming on.

Balthus influenced two artists that I have admired: Will Barnet (earlier post here), and photographer Duane Michaels. He also influenced Eli Levin (the work brings George Tooker strongly to mind), and Elena Zolotnitsky.

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