It’s a funny thing about the French painter Balthus, in that he nearly gave up his budding career out of frustration. When Balthus reemerged at the age of 25, he focused almost entirely on portraits – lurid, filthy, decadent portraits. His favorite subject, perhaps even his muse, was a prepubescent neighbor by the name of Therese Blanchard. Blanchard (illustration at right) posed for nearly a dozen well-known Balthus paintings, all of them between the years of 1936 and ’39 (at which point Balthus got called up for military duty). After the war, Therese Blanchard – who was now teetering on the brink of adulthood – disappeared from Balthus’ work entirely.
By 1950, Balthus had become an international sensation, his work championed by the likes of Matisse and Fellini. Therese Blanchard, on the other hand, was dead … plucked at the very same age as Balthus when he originally began painting her. Perhaps this is one of several reasons why visitors feel inextricably drawn to the “Therese” gallery of Cats & Girls. For it is inside this gallery, much more than any other, that one gets a sense of both the exploitation and the provocation that still render Balthus’ work worthwhile.
(Balthus: Cats & Girls continues at The Metropolitan Museum of Art through this Sunday, January 12th. Free with suggested donation.)
Five More For The Offing:
- Be Fabulous by Roxanne Lowit @ Steven Kasher Gallery (Free, through 1/12, 521 West 23rd Street)
- The Last Studies by Balthus @ Gagosian Gallery (Free, through 1/18, 976 Madison Avenue)
- American Legends: From Calder to O’Keefe featuring various artists @ The Whitney Museum ($20 general admission, through 10/19, 945 Madison Avenue @ 75th Street)
- The Mystery of The Ordinary by Magritte @ The Museum of Modern Art ($25 general admission, through 1/12, 11 West 53rd Street)
- The Image Gallery Redux featuring various artists @ Howard Greenberg Gallery (Free, 1/9-2/15, 41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406)