Scuderie del Quirinale / Villa Medici, Rome
24 October 2015 - 31 January 2016
Kunstforum Wien, Vienna
February 2016 - June 2016
the exhibition is curated by Cécile Debray, curator of the Musée National d'Art Moderne / Centre Pompidou
With a major monographic exhibition split between two exhibition centres, Rome is getting set to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the death of Balthasar Klossowski de Role, known as Balthus (1908–2001), one of the most original and enigmatic masters of the 20th century, whose relationship with the Eternal City was a crucial element in the formation of his art.
Approximately two hundred works of art, among paintings, drawings and photographs, from some of the leading museums and most prestigious private collections in Europe and the United States, offer the visitor a fascinating opportunity to explore Balthus' art in two different venues: at the Scuderie del Quirinale with a complete retrospective built around his best-known masterpieces; and at the Villa Medici with an exhibition that, through the works realized during his roman stay, highlights in-depth analysis of his working method, his creative process, his use of models, his techniques, his recourse to photography.
Born in Paris to a Polish father, who was a renown art critic, while his mother was a Russian painter who maintained a lively presence in leading cultural circles, Balthus spent his childhood in Berlin, Berne and Geneva, following in his restless parents' footsteps and returning to France only in 1924 after soaking up Mittel European culture. Dazzled at an early age by the Tuscan Renaissance masters, and by Piero della Francesca in particular, whom he discovered on a first trip, in 1926, Balthus conceived his compositions with a figurative thought and logical clarity that he inherited from Italian art. It is precisely that tradition, supplemented by his familiarity with the Italian Magical Realism and Metaphysical movements as well as with German New Objectivity, that spawned the enigmatically static quality which was to become such a distinctive feature of his painting production, especially from the 1930s. After the war, Balthus' brushwork became denser while his iconography, more oriented towards the nude, developed the theme of the adolescent girl captured in moments of intimacy or contemplation.
His youthful passion for Italian culture was amply repaid in 1961 when he began an extended spell as director of the French Academy in Rome - Villa Medici. In the performance of that role, lasted 17 years, Balthus further developed the practice of drawing and painting and promoted a major programme of restoration both of the building and of the villa's historical gardens, which are accessible to the visitors of the exhibition.
La patience, 1943
The Art Institute of Chicago, Joseph Winterbotham Collection
opera © Balthus © Mondadori portfolio / AKG Images