Balthus Catalogue Raisonne of the Complete Works

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9780810963948: Balthus Catalogue Raisonne of the Complete Works
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The fact that this 500-page catalogue raisonné was approved by Balthus himself, the most mutable of authorities on his own life and oeuvre, will make it suspect for some historians. And the fact that the texts for the 2,100 black-and-white reproductions are in French (a long, earnest essay by Jean Clair is translated into English) will limit its usefulness for nonacademic readers. But the book is beautiful, and something even better: a cautionary tale about an artist of enormous talent tarnished by unresolved neurosis. As the poet James Fenton wrote of Joseph Cornell, even the most devoted admirer must sometimes turn away, when "the pathology glints from the depths."

Balthus has often lamented that his paintings are mistakenly discussed in terms of their subject matter, but it is the imagery that rudely seizes the viewer's attention away from the paintings' serene, early Renaissance formality and lush 19th-century brushwork, so easy on the eye, and directs it toward the spread legs of all those pubescent girls, to the knife on the floor near the nude on the bed, or to the music teacher's teeth tearing the skirt of her trapped, flailing student.

The hundreds upon hundreds of drawings here, as well as the 80 beautiful color plates of paintings, show the young Balthus as a master of haunting imagery--cats and streets and hills in shadow--that often melds Piero della Francesca's classical forms with an edgy, slightly surreal anxiety. They convey the tender poet of the European countryside, heir to both Caspar David Friedrich and Cézanne. But the nymphet pictures ultimately overshadow Balthus's body of work--not that they are anything but tame in light of today's erotic tastes--but because they come to seem the raison d'être of a second-rate romantic painter, rather than the personal quirks of a great one. --Peggy Moorman

From the Publisher:

With the authorization of Balthus The French painter Balthus (b. 1908) is one of the great figure painters of the 20th century. Yet, until now, the full extent of his output has not been known; nearly 100 paintings and numerous drawings, sketchbooks, and even sculptures have escaped notice. This catalogue raisonn, the outcome of years of study, throws a completely new light on the work of an artist who has spent much of his life avoiding attention. Jean Clair, curator of the 1983 retrospective that confirmed Balthus' international reputation, provides an introductory essay. Virginie Monnier catalogues all 350 known paintings, as well as nearly 1,000 previously unpublished drawings and 50 sketchbooks2,100 works in all. This long-overdue volume reveals a surprisingly extensive oeuvre, adding new luster to the renown of this formidable and intriguing artist. Approximately 2,200 illustrations, 80 in full color, 9 x 1111/2" VIRGINIE MONNIER has contributed to a number of books, scholarly journals, and periodicals. She received graduate and post-graduate degrees from the University of Paris. JEAN CLAIR is director of the Picasso Museum, Paris. Educated at the Sorbonne and at Harvard University, Clair has curated numerous exhibitions and written many books on 20th-century art. He lives in Paris.

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Monnie, Virginie, Clair, Jean
Editorial: Harry N. Abrams (2000)
ISBN 10: 0810963949 ISBN 13: 9780810963948
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Virginie Monnie, Jean Clair
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Virginie Monnie; Jean Clair
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Virginie Monnie; Jean Clair
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