Here are some images from the artist BALTHUS (1908-2001).
This selection of his work I have put together is characterised by cats, dark rooms, chairs, tables and girls, and are my favourites of his pieces. By ‘girls’, that is to say, barely pubescent girls, whom he found more interesting than grown women for the mysteriousness of their adolescence. His trademark young nude form offended many an eye. I don’t feel particularly shocked by them, my energy goes on admiring them. Lolita is my favourite book. ‘Therese’ (accents omitted because they show up funny) which is image no. 9 on the montage (numbering left to right from top to bottom row) was used as the cover of a Penguin edition of Nabokov’s novel.
Something about the girls’ poses that fascinated Balthus as he sat with paintbrish in hand, also fascinates me. I like the knee high socks, petite jackets, thrown back skirts (the slightly more risque component to a few of his images) and the presence of the odd cat or dog in the painting – Balthus loved cats and put a few Cheshires here and there to accompany his immortalised Alices. Amongst Balthus’ inspirations was the work, including photography, of Lewis Carroll.
I won’t deny however that ‘Guitar Lesson’ (No. 6) is slightly disturbing to say the least, mainly due to the proximity of the woman’s hand to the girl’s genitalia which causes the scene to verge on actual sexual (and thus paedophilic) activity. The scene, commandeered by the woman’s creepy scowl, is almost frightening, especially to the first-time viewer.
The most inspiring pics for me are ‘Nude with a cat (nude with basin)’ (that is no. 2 on the montage) and this pic, ‘The Room’:
I love the way light is painted in these images; employed to stream through a window onto an outspread nubile nude. In the above painting, the troll-like character provides a slightly disturbing function of exposing the sleeping girl.
My knowledge of Balthus, as of any artist, isn’t comprehensive and there is much of his work that I have not seen and/or is not to my taste. This blogging reference to him is meant only to be brief and whimsical. However, based what I have seen and been moved by, I did a self portrait photoshoot in a Balthus-like setting. See Girl dreaming here
Neret, Gilles, ‘Balthus’. Taschen, 2005