TRI­BU­TE TO BAL­THUS

Marie Claire Maison (Italy) - - ENGLISH TEXT -

Ra­re­fied at­mo­sphe­res, al­mo­st su­spen­ded in ti­me, per­va­de the ma­ster­pie­ces by this great 20th-cen­tu­ry ar­ti­st, ce­le­bra­ted in an an­tho­lo­gy at the Fon­da­tion Beye­ler

By Be­ne­det­ta Bernasconi

A li­fe sto­ry wor­thy of a no­vel. To start wi­th, he was a de­scen­dent of Lord By­ron, the ow­ner of a num­ber of splen­did hou­ses, a friend of Fe­de­ri­co Fel­li­ni and Rai­ner Ma­ria Ril­ke, and mu­ch ad­mi­red by Pa­blo Pi­cas­so, who de­scri­bed him as “the grea­te­st mo­dern ar­ti­st”. Flat­te­ry to whi­ch Count Bal­tha­sar Klos­so­w­ski de Ro­la (1908 − 2001), alias Bal­thus, re­plied exa­spe­ra­ted­ly: “Bal­thus is a pain­ter of whom no­thing is kno­wn. Now let us look at the pic­tu­res”. In­deed, his works are ex­cep­tio­nal and fea­tu­re at the heart of what looks set to be an un­mis­sa­ble re­tro­spec­ti­ve. Open from 2 Sep­tem­ber 2018 to 1 Ja­nua­ry 2019 at the Fon­da­tion Beye­ler, the fif­ty art­works look back over the ca­reer of the Fren­ch ar­ti­st, an ir­re­ve­rent ico­no­cla­st of the 20th-cen­tu­ry avant-gar­de mo­ve­men­ts, who wan­ted to be jud­ged so­le­ly for his work. The out­co­me is a gallery of por­trai­ts vei­led wi­th a sub­tle ero­ti­ci­sm, in whi­ch pro­vo­ca­ti­ve wo­men and se­duc­ti­ve Lo­li­tas al­ter­na­te wi­th cro­w­ded sce­nes. It is one of the­se that real­ly stands out in the Swiss mu­seum: Pas­sa­ge du Com­mer­ce-Saint

An­dré, an ex­tra-lar­ge can­vas that re­pro­du­ces the theatre of eve­ry­day li­fe, in whi­ch so­me chil­dren are play­ing, an old

man wat­ches them ti­red­ly, whi­le a young girl di­rec­ts a se­ve­re ga­ze to­wards the viewer. The ar­ti­st con­veys his ta­lent th­rou­gh light bru­sh­stro­kes, pro­du­cing a sen­sa­tion of su­spen­ded ti­me, wi­thin whi­ch the fi­gu­res ap­pear to be “fro­zen” in an enchantment. An an­ta­go­ni­st of mo­dern art, Bal­thus’s grea­te­st lo­ve was Re­nais­san­ce pain­ting, dra­wing in­spi­ra­tion for his com­po­si­tions, nar­ra­ti­ve sty­le and ini­mi­ta­ble palette from Pie­ro del­la Fran­ce­sca. This re­fe­ren­ce is ex­pli­cit in Thé

rè­se, a su­perb por­trait of his young nei­gh­bour, im­mor­ta­li­sed wi­th soft li­nes that re­fer to clas­si­cal sty­li­stic fea­tu­res: the slee­ves of her tai­lo­red jac­ket dra­wn up to un­co­ver her fo­rearms, her lan­guid hand re­sting on her knee and her di­sin­te­re­sted, al­mo­st bo­red ex­pres­sion; a snap­shot that cap­tu­res a flee­ting mo­ment, be­fo­re the ma­gic dis­sol­ves. This is how Bal­thus sta­ges his rea­li­sm, al­ways poi­sed bet­ween dream and rea­li­ty, sen­sua­li­ty and in­no­cen­ce, calm and agi­ta­tion. The­se con­stant con­tra­dic­tions fea­tu­re in eve­ry work. He was an ar­ti­st who suc­cee­ded in cap­tu­ring the spi­rit of the age in the on­going dri­ve to re­veal new forms of beau­ty.

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