Thursday 18 February 2021


 I recently posted this picture – The Street by Balthus – on Facebook, just for the heck of it. It's an image I find endlessly fascinating (as, it seems, does our own Robert Dukes, who has painted his own version or study of it). Fascinating and disturbing, with that unsettling dreamlike quality that much of Balthus's work has. Perhaps his most disturbing works  are the studies of languid pubescent girls which made him notorious in his time, and which remain highly controversial. Balthus, who died on this day 20 years ago, was widely admired, especially by other figurative artists. He cultivated the image of an enigma and a recluse, sending this telegram to the Tate ahead of its 1968 retrospective: 'No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures. Regards B.' Yet he became an international celebrity. Bono sang at his funeral (what had the poor man done to deserve that?), and among the mourners were the President of France, the Aga Khan, Elle MacPherson and Henri Cartier-Bresson. A classic case of backing into the limelight. 
   This is another hauntingly strange Balthus (which Robert Dukes has also painted a version of)...

And this one was used as the dust-wrapper image on John Gray's excellent Feline Philosophy. An inspired choice.


  1. Guy Davenport's Every Force Evolves a Form includes what I recall as an interesting essay on Balthus.

  2. Thanks for the lead, George.

    1. 'A Balthus Notebook' by Davenport is great too. Excellent book admired by the man himself, with an interesting analysis of the iconography of 'The Street'.