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(1908 - 2001)
Born: Paris, France
Style: Realism
Famous Works:
  • Guitar Lesson (1934)
  • Thérèse Dreaming (1938)
  • The Living Room (1941-43)
Balthus' career as a painter began as a thirteen-year-old boy, when he illustrated Mitsou, the story of a stray cat. The artist not only drew pictures for the story, but also penned the tale, and poet Rainer Maria Rilke, a close companion to Balthus' mother, wrote the preface for the book. This extraordinary introduction characterized his childhood. His mother was a painter, and his father an art historian specializing in Daumier, and the unusual household was frequently visited by family friends Pierre Bonnard, André Derain, and Rilke. In the 1930s, Paris was brimming with poets, writers, and artists, many of whom came to know and admire Balthus' work. Balthus befriended and admired artists such as Pablo Picasso, Dora Maar, Joan Miró, and Alberto Giacometti. During this time, while painting portraits and stage designs, Balthus started to paint awkward portraits of teenagers wrought in a tense sexual atmosphere, a dominant theme throughout his career. Balthus created relatively few paintings considering his long career, but consistently created tense, titillating images, often depicting young girls in shockingly private, or compromising scenes, as well as dreamy, flat landscapes. Seemingly out of place in the world of modern art, Balthus' work reflects cues from a classical, Pre-Renaissance aesthetic. While Balthus enjoyed the favor of critics and is hailed as one of the twentieth century's leaders in figure painting, at certain points in his life his mysterious paintings were shunned by the public. The artist spent his later years in relative seclusion in Switzerland, rarely granting interviews, and even more infrequently traveling to see his own art hanging in museums around the world.
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