Balthus. Photo by Alvaro Canovas
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) was born in 1908 in Paris, and died in 2001 in Rossinière, Switzerland. At the age of 13, he published Mitsou, a book of 40 ink drawings with a text by Rainer Maria Rilke, a close family friend. A self-taught artist, he held his first exhibition at Galerie Pierre, Paris in 1934. He exhibited with Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York from 1938 to 1977, although he never visited the U.S. In 1961, Balthus became director of the French Academy in Rome. Over the next 16 years he restored the interior of the Villa Medici and its gardens to their former elegance. During his lifetime, he was also a noted stage designer for Shakespeare's ”As You Like It,” Shelley's “Cenci” (as adapted by Antonin Artaud), Camus's “État de Siège,” and Mozart's “Così Fan Tutte.”
Balthus's first major museum exhibition was at The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1956. Other important museum exhibitions include Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (1966); Tate Gallery, London (1968); La Biennale di Venezia, (1980); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1980); Musée national d'art moderne de la ville de Paris (1984; traveled to Metropolitan Museum, Kyoto); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1984); Musée cantonal des beaux-arts de Lausanne (1993); and Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2001). Solo exhibitions include “Balthus in Chicago,” The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago (1980); “Balthus,” Musée national d’art modern, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1983); “Balthus,” Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto (1984); “Balthus,” Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong (1995); “Balthus: Time Suspended. Paintings and Drawings 1932–1960,” Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2007); “Balthus: 100th Anniversary,” Foundation Pierre Gianadda, Martigny (2008); and “Balthus,” Scuderie del Quirinale and Villa Medici, Rome (2015). "Balthus: Cats and Girls: Paintings and Provocations," hosted by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2013–14) marked the first U.S. museum survey of the artist's work in 30 years.