Image rights: © Harumi Klossowska de Rola. Courtesy Gagosian.
Balthazar Klossowski, better known as Balthus, bucked the trends of mid-20th century avant-gardism, concentrating on traditional landscapes, still lifes, and portraits in the tradition of the Old Masters. Despite Balthus’s formal conservatism, he became infamous in the 1930s for sexually charged depictions of adolescent girls. Thérèse Dreaming (1930), for instance, features a pre-pubescent girl lost in her own thoughts as she perches one bent leg on a stool, causing her skirt to fall back. Balthus later returned to painting landscapes in the vein of Nicolas Poussin and Gustave Courbet, like The Mountain (1937). Although rendered in a painstakingly realist style, this painting figures among the works—along with The Street (1933)—that prompted some critics to label Balthus as a Surrealist for his depiction of bizarre narrative scenes and dreamlike atmospheres.
French, 1908-2001, Paris, France, based in Rossinière, Switzerland