I was pleased to see the Balthus exhibition at the Thyssen Museum (it was previously at the Beyeler in Basel) because it is unlikely that there could be an exhibition in Britain owing to disapproval of his subject matter. But what comes across is how serious he is as a painter, the child of an art historian, encouraged by Rilke, trained by his studies of Piero della Francesca in 1926.

The Street (1933) from MOMA mixes surrealism with Piero:-

His pictures are intended to be disturbing, and they are, as in Thérèse dreaming (1938) from the Met:-

There is an uneasy mix of sensuality and narcissism, as well as the constant theme of adolescent sexuality. Is it the faux naiveté which is so unsettling?

It’s odd to discover that in 1961 he was appointed Director of the French Academy in Rome and spent fifteen years restoring its villa. And had a retrospective at the Tate in 1968.


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