Balthus. Works / Interviews
Ediciones Poligrafa, Barcelona, 2008
Widely considered one of the greatest, and certainly one of the most mysterious and erotically daring, painters of the twentieth century, Balthus, or Balthazar Klossowski, the French/Polish Count de Rola, died in his adopted Switzerland in 2001 at the age of 93. Descended from Polish aristocracy and raised among important European intellectuals like Rainer Maria Rilke, André Gide and Jean Cocteau, Balthus went on to consort and collaborate with many of the most influential members of the Modern avant garde—including Breton, Picasso, Artaud, Giacometti, Camus, Masson and Lacan, to name a fraction. His disturbing and often erotically charged paintings remain enduringly enigmatic.
In this illustrated collection, Mieke Bal analyzes the way that the paintings emanate both reality and un-reality, creating the unique sense of eeriness at the heart of Balthus’ work–which always invites viewers in and repels them at the same time. According to Bal, we are given access to a world that is in no way explained. Thus, the works must labor against assumptions of representation and appropriation, drawing us into a world we know not to exist. In Bal’s interpretation, this canny fictionality renders the typical allegations of erotic appropriation naïve and censorious. Rather than reduce Balthus’ work to the adolescent girls, Bal focuses on additional issues such as color, space, genre and history.