Balthus is best known for his series of pensive adolescents who dream or read in rooms that are closed to the outside world. Focusing on his finest works, the exhibition will be limited to approximately thirty-five paintings dating from the mid-1930s to the 1950s. Between 1936 and 1939, Balthus painted his celebrated series of portraits of Thérèse Blanchard, his young neighbor in Paris. Thérèse posed alone, with her cat, or with her two brothers. When Balthus lived in Switzerland during World War II, he replaced the forbidding austerity of his Paris studio with more colorful interiors in which different nymphets daydream, read, or nap. The exhibition concludes with images that he created of Frédérique Tison, his favorite model, at the Château de Chassy in the Morvan during the 1950s. Never before shown in public will be the series of forty small ink drawings for Mitsou, in which the eleven-year-old Balthus evoked his adventures with a stray tomcat and which were published by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke in 1921. This is the first exhibition of the artist's works in this country in thirty years. Four works belong to the Museum's collection and the rest—with the exception of several loans from France, England, Switzerland, and Australia—will come from museums and private collections in the United States.
"Rather strange, even refreshing"—New York Times
"The portraits on display are masterpieces of troubling beauty painted in a style that Balthus called 'timeless realism.'"—New Yorker blog
"This choice selection of works proves that Balthus never forgot what he had discovered as an 11-year-old: How despair and momentary pleasures could be enlarged into material for art."—Wall Street Journal
The exhibition is made possible by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust, the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, and Diane Carol Brandt.