Ask Morgana 099: Balthus

Balthasar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001) was a French painter of Polish heritage, and someone whom I consider to have been one of the most interesting artists of the 20c. He was a painter of the human figure, especially the female, at a period in the history of art when it was unfashionable. In his style it is possible to see the influence of pre-Renaissance art, but also of Surrealism. He claimed not to be an erotic artist, but many of his paintings are in fact disturbingly erotic, maybe because of their dreamlike, symbolical quality. Then there is the question of the subject matter. Many of the figures in Balthus’s paintings are young girls, depicted in erotic situations – his most famous painting, The Guitar Lesson, shows a music teacher with a half-naked girl stretched across her knee – for which reason I am reluctant to show any of them here. Balthus insisted that his work was not erotic but that it recognized the discomforting facts of children’s sexuality. A cynic might regard that as a disingenuous apologia. I make no judgment myself, but instead I put forward the painting below – The White Skirt – in which a woman sits in reverie, her blouse unbuttoned and her brassiere exposed; to be honest I find it infinitely sexier than the more explicit paintings in my previous post.



Image reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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