Balthus, mysterious, discussed and fascinating painter

Scuderie del Quirinale and Villa Medici, Rome

until 13 January 2016

“Balthus was very influenced by Italian painting; in 1926 went to Arezzo where he admired and copied Piero della Francesca paintings. He always was fascinated by the Tuscan Renaissance and also by the Eternal City classicism”.

This is how the exhibition curator Cécile Debray, in collaboration with Matteo Lanfranconi, introduced the event design to celebrate the intense profile of the extravagant French genius in Rome: an abundance of masterpieces at the Scuderie del Quirinale; an exhibition showing his creative evolution at Villa Medici, with the works realized during his long period of 17 years in Rome.

Paintings, drawings and photographs, about 200 works from the most important European and American museums and private collections all together to enhance Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, Balthus (1908-2001), on the fifteenth anniversary of his death; one of the most controversial and discussed artist of ‘900. His admir Pablo Picasso, bought one of his work Les enfants Blanchard.

The artist path is display in a chronological order to show how Balthus was influenced by Emily Brontë‘s Wuthering heights or by Lewis Carroll‘s Alice in Wonderland; as well as to emphasise friendship with Artaud, Derain, Malrauxand the Italian Giacometti.
The exhibition also puts emphasis of his innovative way to depict and exclusive way to set up the atelier setting.

Internationally acclaimed as one of the most original master of realism of XX century, Balthus remained astonished by the discover of Italian Renaissance, capturing the stylistic sharpen and the Italian genius in compositions.

In this stunning artistic enthusiasm, with the help of De Chirico Metaphysical art, Balthus designed his unique dreaming and impenetrable atmosphere, depicted in his paintings, exceptionally for those created in the thirties.

Sixty years of painting with works like Thérèse Dreaming, The Moth, The Street, Still Life with a Figure, Katia Reading, Solitaire, the hermetic The King of the Cats and Japanese Girl with by the Red Table with his young wife Setsuko Ideta as model (35 years younger hen him and married in 1967), today she’s working at the Balthus Foundation.


As an alter ego, his predilection for cats will be present in the whole artist life, side by side with his predilection for ambiguous and erotic figures of girls with their emerging sexuality, depicted in moments of intimacy or contemplation.
Felines and femininity for Balthus are 2 sides of the same coin, limits of an unreachable world, an archaic planet desired but not disposal, he can only imagine.

“Balthus art – says Cécile Debray – is known for canvas of adolescent girls with strong erotic suggestion. Sometimes this paintings can upset visitors with demure minds, recently they provoked a debate about paedophia. Instred, I think that it is fair to remember that it is only about paintings, art and that Balthus was not a paedophile”.

Balthus, born in Paris in 1908, son of the painter Eric Klossowski and watercolourist Baladine; he was lucky to have as”tutor” the future patner of her mother, Rainer Maria Rilke, one of the most important German poet of XX Century.
Balthus was very found of Italy and direct for 16 years, from 1961 to 1977, the French Academy in Rome and promoted the restoration of Villa Medici and its garden.

“A painter about whom nothing is known”, as he describe himself in 1968, but thanks to a monograph celebrating his art, today he is easier to know and understand the artist. The exhibition is going to move to Vienna at the Kunstforum in February 2016 and will be curated by Evelyn Benesch.

Scuderie del Quirinale: the exhibition
Tickets: full price € 12,00, reduced € 9,50, for 7-18 years € 6,00

French Academy / Villa Medici: the atelier.
Tickets: full price € 12,00, reduced € 9,50

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