'Young girls and dreaming cats'


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

Also, Girl awoken, here
And Girl in red shoes, here

In the montage of Balthus pics (l-r in in rows from top to bottom)
Image No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

‘The Room’

Neret, Gilles, ‘Balthus’. Taschen, 2005

Posted in Inspirations - References to other artists on October 2nd, 2007 | 24 Comments |

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Comments for “'Young girls and dreaming cats'”

    1. mike wood
      8:26 pm on October 2nd, 2007

      Looking at the above paintings, you pulled off a great homage to Balthus in your image. I was only remotely familiar with him so I thought I would read your blog to learn more. Well done. :D


    2. Miss Aniela
      8:50 pm on October 2nd, 2007

      Thank You!!

    3. djsosumi
      8:57 pm on October 2nd, 2007

      Have to agree with the above post. I can’t say I knew too much about the artist you’ve been ranting on about ( ;o) ) so I thought I would have a look see about him.

      I find it quite inspiring that you’ve managed to take such motivation and come up with excellent image from non-conventional sources, ie. the cover of literature rather than horrible camera magazines…!

      Excellent, inspirational images and motivation behind the images

    4. Malcolm Thomson
      5:43 am on October 3rd, 2007

      I can’t say I’m completely surprised that you find in the work of Balthus something which resonates for you. As I may have mentioned in an earlier comment, from the mid-seventies to the early eighties I managed the affairs of the photographer David Hamilton. He, too, was an admirer of Balthus, visiting him occasionally at the Villa Medici in Rome.

    5. chrisrudge
      5:35 pm on October 3rd, 2007

      Thanks for the Balthus reproductions. You did a fine job of reproducing this on the recent ‘room’ pic. Wonderful.

    6. Meg
      11:47 pm on October 3rd, 2007

      My lord, these are amazinggg!!!!
      It’s so hard nowadays to be completely amazed by a painter. I hate to say it, but most of the stuff that people are doing now don’t strike me as original enough to truly inspired me. This, however, is UNBELIEVABLE.

      Eesh! Now I’m off to go research some more about Balthus! :)

    7. Miss Aniela
      12:55 pm on October 6th, 2007

      @ paul – thanks!

      @ Malcolm – that’s interesting. So you never got to meet Balthazar yourself??

      @ chrisrudge – thank you very much.

      @ Meg – hehe thanks for your visit & comment, very glad i have inspired you to find out more about Balthus x

    8. Todd
      9:38 am on October 8th, 2007

      Ahhh now I completely see how you’ve drawn the inspiration for your latest works, and that makes them more impressive. I commented on the lamp / bookcase in your last shot looking so much like an illustration – you pulled that off so well. Really looking forward to the next in the series from you.

    9. Steve Bowen
      1:24 am on October 9th, 2007

      Lovely montage of images. He’s been a favorite artist of mine for over 20 years. Just this year I was moved to copy one of his works — I chose the Nude Playing With Cat or Nude with Basin. I learned a lot about edges and ‘touch’ from studying this painting (from a repro obviously). Not to mention color (a weak point for me). And though mine isn’t much next to his, it gives me pleasure to’ve caught some little bit of his ecstatic vision.

    10. M
      2:10 am on October 10th, 2007

      Thank you ever so much for answering my questions in my previous comment on a different entry. I have yet one more…

      Have you ever considered of posting (or selling) a tutorial on your post-processing lighting techniques?



    11. anony mouse
      3:54 am on October 11th, 2007

      I wish I had an ounce of your talent!

    12. Miss Aniela
      1:30 pm on October 11th, 2007

      @ Todd – thank you very much. I didn’t know whether I’d do another Balthus tribute, but today I did – hehe. Watch out for it on Flickr very soon.

      @ M
      My pleasure.
      I always try to give tips etc when I upload onto Flickr, sometimes the ‘original’ versions or a ‘process’ strip… though I am confident in my use of Photoshop for my own purposes, I don’t know if I’d have enough confidence to ’sell’ tutorials as such… at the moment I feel ok just answering people’s questions for ‘free’ when they query something abotu my technique. However, it’s a thought for the future, so thanks for suggesting it. I think I’d like to get better at Photoshop and start learning about tools and processes used in the trade that I’m yet to know about :)

    13. Miss Aniela
      1:30 pm on October 11th, 2007

      oh and cheers @ anonymouse…

    14. Mike
      6:57 pm on October 11th, 2007

      I too knew little of Balthus’ work though I will certainly try to become better aquainted.
      I love your image – it is so frank that it’s raw. Mike

    15. Greg McGonagill
      5:37 pm on October 16th, 2007

      I was drawn here by one of the paintings shown on Google images – which I thought might be by William Bailey, one of my favorite artists; check out his work for inspiration sometime!

      I’ve enjoyed seeing your work on Flickr – and just listened to an interview you did. Keep at it!

    16. Richard Anscombe
      3:04 pm on October 22nd, 2007

      Stunning photos on Flickr brought me here, plus being inquisitive about Balthus!
      It occured to me that you could try a multiplicity shot of the reclined girl and the girl pulling the curtains- The Room, with you as both characters, I’t would be facinating to see your interpretation of this!

    17. David Oaks
      5:22 am on November 25th, 2007

      I’ve just been reviewing some of your work.

      You are technically competent and obviously familiar with post-processing in photoshop. It will be interesting to see how your technique develops as you evolve away from your current narcissism.

    18. Fotografia
      4:34 pm on December 3rd, 2007

      Really inspiring. Balthus was really a great artist. I saw a really nice exibhition in Venice some years ago.
      Thanks for sharin your source of ideas.

    19. Michael Venditozzi
      3:16 pm on February 17th, 2008

      Hi Miss A – if you haven’t come across her, I thought you might enjoy my friend Amy Crehore’s work. She has lots of good things to say about Balthus too…


    20. Arty Smokes
      10:32 pm on March 21st, 2008

      I’m intrigued to hear of your love of “Lolita”. The love of my life said it was her favourite too (she was also born the day Nabokov died, so she sometimes joked that she was Vladimir reincarnated). While I loved the use of language in “Lolita”, and recognise it to have great literary merit, I was still quite disturbed by it. There is just something I found distasteful about a male writer creating a sexualised child in his imagination. I’m all for breaking taboos in art and literature, but I struggle to find a compelling reason for an immensely talented middle-aged man to write what is, on the surface, a teenage wank fantasy. I could never understand why my ex adored the book so much. We discussed it at length and I read a few critiques of the book that attempted to explain why it was a masterpiece and not a pederastic fantasy, but no one managed to convince me. It may be that the novel’s ambiguity is what appeals to some people but turns others off. It’s similar to your photos in that respect. Everyone has an opinion, but the views are polarized. In regards to your work, I think this is a good thing. It’s cool that people either love or hate your work. To be average would be much worse.

      My copy of “Lolita” has the Balthus on the cover. I never liked his paintings, to be honest, but it’s clear they have had a influence on your work. I feel quite clever for describing the picture of you lounging naked on the sofa as “painterly” now, as the pose and composition was clearly inspired by the images above.

      I’d like to add that it’s refreshing to hear an artist namechecking someone that has inspired them. I hate it when artists claim to be completely original. I’d love to hear which other artists and writers make you tick.

    21. Miss Aniela
      9:09 pm on March 22nd, 2008

      “I’d like to add that it’s refreshing to hear an artist namechecking someone that has inspired them. I hate it when artists claim to be completely original”.

      Yup I very much agree! See my latest blog post which is part of a series of 3 that reference my Flickr inspirations…

    22. seo
      7:19 am on September 24th, 2008


    23. madeleine
      1:09 am on October 6th, 2008

      what else is hilarious/creepy about the guitar lessons painting is that the girl’s hand is on the woman’s boob
      and she’s like fondling it!

    24. Miss Aniela
      10:18 pm on October 6th, 2008

      urgh yeah i didn’t notice that!

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