From time to time, amidst all the trials and errors, it happens: I recognize what I was looking for. All of a sudden the vision that pre-existed incarnates itself, more or less intuitively and more or less precisely. The dream and the reality are superimposed and made one.
Following “Balthus: The Last Studies” at Gagosian New York (2013–14) and “Balthus” at Gagosian Paris (January–February 2015), Gagosian Hong Kong is pleased to announce a career-spanning exhibition of Balthus's paintings, drawings, and photographs. Prepared in collaboration with the artist's estate, this will be the first exhibition of his work in Hong Kong in twenty years.
Balthus was the reclusive painter of charged and disquieting narrative scenes, whose inspirative sources and embrace of exquisitely rigorous technique reach back to the early Renaissance, though with a subversive modern twist. Working independently of avant-garde movements such as Surrealism, he turned to antecedents including Piero della Francesca and Gustave Courbet, appropriating their techniques to represent the physical and psychic struggles of adolescence. Casting viewers as voyeurs of pubescent female subjects brooding with uneasy dreams, he scandalized Parisian audiences with his first gallery exhibition in 1934. In his interior portraits, street scenes, and landscapes of the next seventy years, Balthus cultivated a self-taught classicism as a framework for more enigmatic artistic investigations.
Early ink studies of Paris streets and passersby demonstrate the evolution of what Balthus described as his “timeless realism.” His signature dramatic lighting and muted palette are already evident in the oil paintings Portrait of Pierre Leyris (1932–33), a depiction of the young translator lighting a cigarette after dinner; and Young Girl in Amazonian Costume (1932), shown in his notorious debut at Galerie Pierre two years later. In the droll self-portrait The King of Cats (1935), featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 2013–14 exhibition “Balthus: Cats and Girls,” the 27-year-old artist presents himself wearing a jacket and tie, a cat nuzzling his feet; a stone tablet leaning against a stool is inscribed “A PORTRAIT OF H.M. THE KING OF CATS painted by HIMSELF.” A 1947 study in oil on board for the key large-scale painting The Card Game (1948–50) portrays two girls in modern dress, but rendered with a geometrical order more typical of the Renaissance. Brimming with juxtaposed patterns, Le Rêve II (1956–57) finds Frédérique Tison, the stepdaughter of the artist's brother Pierre Klossowski, dreaming contently on a sofa as a second girl brings her a bright orange flower.
Balthus was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome in 1961, and acquired a medieval castle near Viterbo, an hour's drive north of the city, in 1970. In drawings and watercolors produced over the next several years, he continuously depicted the nearby ruins of a watchtower situated on a steep cliff over a densely wooded ravine, adjusting his palette with the seasons. In the last decade of his life, when physical frailty made it all but impossible for him to draw, he discovered the Polaroid camera—a surprising turn for one who had remained so defiantly aloof from many of the technical innovations of his own time. With it he began making extensive instant photographic "sketches" for his paintings, which were often many years in the making. During this time, his artistic energies and attention were reserved largely for his last model Anna. She posed for him every Wednesday for eight years in the same room with the same curtain, the same chaise longue, the same window in changing light conditions, the same bucolic mountain scenery looming beyond. This enduring scene provided the subject for his final painting, Girl with a Mandolin (2000–01), which remained unfinished at the time of his death.
A fully illustrated catalogue on Balthus's work, including a conversation between Setsuko Klossowska de Rola and Olivier Zahm, is forthcoming.
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) was born in Paris in 1908 and died in Rossinière, Switzerland in 2001. 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. Following the ensuing scandal, he showed with Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York from 1938–77, although he never visited the U.S. His paintings and drawings are in the collections of key museum and private collections worldwide.
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 in 1956. Other museum exhibitions of note include Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris (1966); Tate Gallery, London (1968); La Biennale di Venezia (1980); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1980); Centre Georges Pompidou (1983–84, traveled to Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art (1984); Musée cantonal des beaux-arts de Lausanne (1993); Hong Kong Museum of Art (1995); Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2001); and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (2014, traveled to Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art). His work has been the subject of two major exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: “Balthus” (1984); and “Balthus: Cats and Girls” (2013–14).
繼紐約及巴黎高古軒先後舉行的「Balthus: The Last Studies」展覽(2013至2014年)及「Balthus」展覽(2015年1月至2月)後，香港高古軒欣然宣佈舉行巴爾蒂斯展覽，呈獻這位藝術大師不同時期的油畫、畫作及攝影作品。展覽由高古軒畫廊與巴爾蒂斯遺產管理委員會攜手策劃，是香港20年來首個巴爾蒂斯展覽。
巴爾蒂斯深居簡出，擅長創作感情豐富、令人不安的敘事場景。他從文藝復興初期取材，以顛覆性的現代手法演繹文藝復興時期精細嚴謹的技巧，自成一格。巴爾蒂斯並無跟隨超現實主義等前衛藝術運動，反而借用皮耶羅•德拉•弗朗切斯卡(Piero della Francesca)及古斯塔夫•庫爾貝(Gustave Courbet)等藝術先驅的技巧，呈現青春期的身心掙扎。巴爾蒂斯於1934年舉行首個畫廊展覽，讓觀賞者以偷窺者的角度窺探被不安夢境纏繞的少女，震驚整個巴黎。其後70年，他創作了多幅室內肖像畫、街景作品及風景畫，練就自學成派的古典藝術風格，並以此探索耐人尋味的藝術主題。
巴爾蒂斯早年創作的水墨習作描繪巴黎的街景與路人，展現他所指的「永恆現實主義」之演變。從多幅油畫中皆可見其一貫的戲劇性光影技巧及暗沉色調，例如描繪年輕翻譯家皮埃爾•萊利斯(Pierre Leyris)在飯後點煙的《皮埃爾•萊利斯肖像》(Portrait of Pierre Leyris)(1932–33年)，以及他在巴黎Galerie Pierre首場展覽中展出的《穿亞馬遜服裝的少女》(Young Girl in Amazonian Costume)(1932年)。大都會藝術博物館於2013至2014年舉行巴爾蒂斯回顧展「巴爾蒂斯：貓與少女」(Balthus: Cats and Girls)，展出藝術家27歲時的自畫像《貓王》(The King of Cats)(1935年)，畫中的巴爾蒂斯身穿外套，打著領帶，一隻貓靠在他腳邊，椅子旁的石碑寫著「H.M.的肖像 貓王親自所繪。」（A PORTRAIT OF H.M. THE KING OF CATS painted by HIMSELF.），充滿幽默感。他於1947年為巨型油畫作品《紙牌遊戲》（The Card Game）(1948至1950年)所繪的木板板油畫習作，描繪兩個打扮入時的少女，幾何形的線條卻透現文藝復興時期的氣息。圖案豐富的《夢II》（Le Rêve II）(1956至1957年)則描繪巴爾蒂斯哥哥Pierre Klossowski的繼女Frédérique Tison，她在沙發上酣睡，另一位少女則向她送上一朵鮮橙色的花。
巴爾蒂斯於1961年獲委任為羅馬法蘭西學院院長，並於1970年在距離羅馬一小時車程的維泰博近郊買下一座中世紀城堡。其後數年，他持續創作繪畫及水彩畫，描繪附近峭崖上的瞭望塔遺跡，懸崖下是長滿樹木的峽谷，畫作的顏色則隨著季節而變化。在逝世前十年，巴爾蒂斯因為健康欠佳而無法作畫，遂開始使用寶麗萊相機，由於他一直很抗拒當時的創新技術，如此轉變實在令人始料未及。他開始大量拍攝即時成像照片，作為畫作的草圖，這一過程在以往常常會耗費數年時間。期間他把創作精力及注意力全部集中於最後一位模特兒安娜（Anna）身上。八年來，安娜每逢星期三都會來到巴爾蒂斯的工作室，擺出各種姿勢讓他拍照，除了房間的光線有所變化外，窗簾、躺椅、窗戶及窗外的田園山景始終如一。這個固定的場景更啟發巴爾蒂斯創作最後一幅作品《少女和曼陀林》（Girl with a Mandolin）(2000至2001年)，作品至他離世時仍未完成。
全配圖的巴爾蒂斯作品畫冊即將出版，內附Setsuko Klossowska de Rola與Olivier Zahm的訪談。
巴爾蒂斯(巴爾塔扎•克洛索夫斯基•德羅拉)1908年生於巴黎，2001年卒於瑞士羅西尼耶爾。他於13歲時出版《Mitsou》一書，收錄40幅水墨畫作，並由家族好友萊納•瑪利亞•里爾克（Rainer Maria Rilke）撰文。自學成才的巴爾蒂斯於1934年在巴黎Galerie Pierre舉行首場展覽，引發社會議論。1938年至1977年期間，他在紐約皮埃爾•馬蒂斯畫廊舉行展覽，但他卻從未踏足美國。收藏有他的油畫及畫作的重要博物館及私人收藏遍佈世界。