ON THE LAST DAY of May 2023, I visited the Luxembourg Gallery on London’s Savile Row. My wife and I went to see a small exhibition of paintings and drawings by an artist whose name was not familiar to me – Balthasar Klossowski (1908–2001). Better known as ‘Balthus’, he was according to Wikipedia:
“…known for his erotically charged images of pubescent girls, but also for the refined, dreamlike quality of his imagery.”
Although there were three drawings that fall into the “erotically charged” category, most of the other works on display were delicately executed, attractive paintings. Most of these demonstrate what the gallery’s website described as follows:
“Exercising meticulous control over the form and placement of models, their bodily gestures, as well as the domestic or rural settings in which they reside, Balthus sought to create, at least in appearance, dreamlike scenarios, absent of time and devoid of emotional expression. Yet the restraint in his works results in suggestive and even violent relationships between elements or figures in the picture, as well as in their relation to viewers or the artist himself.”
The results are extremely pleasing to the eye.
The Wikipedia article mentioned something that particularly interested me:
“Throughout his career, Balthus rejected the usual conventions of the art world. He insisted that his paintings should be seen and not read about, and he resisted any attempts made to build a biographical profile. Towards the end of his life, he took part in a series of dialogues with the neurobiologist Semir Zeki, conducted at his chalet at Rossinière, Switzerland and at the Palazzo Farnese (French Embassy) in Rome.”
When I was studying for my BSc in physiology at University College London in the early 1970s, one of my teachers was Semir Zeki, mentioned in the quote above. I recall that he was an excellent teacher, who was able to explain complex topics extremely clearly.
Although I did not know about Balthus nor of Professor Zeki’s connection with him, I am very pleased I visited the Luxembourg Gallery and became aware of such a fine 20th century artist.