by Stanislas Klossowski de Rola
With the death of Balthus in February 2001, the world lost one of the great painters of the twentieth century. Born into an aristocratic Polish family in 1908, Balthus grew up amid the most cultivated and artistic circles of Geneva, Berlin and Paris. Brilliantly precocious, he developed early his twin fascinations with the East and with Europe's old masters - inspirations that show in the poise and peculiar timelessness of his paintings.
But his work is also suffused with an eroticism and sense of mystery that betray much more modern influences. Balthus was an artist of unflinching integrity. Out of step with the modern movement, until the 1960s he was hailed by only a tiny group of connoisseurs - among them, Picasso.
By the mid- 1980s his work had achieved international renown, but he remained acutely wary of public scrutiny. He believed passionately that his paintings were to be looked at, not read about, or read into. As a result the enigmatic aura of his art came to envelop the man himself - even when, in his later years, he finally let down his guard and allowed journalists and scholars into his magnificent chalet home at Rossiniere in the Swiss Alps.
Following his father's death, Stanislas Klossowski de Rola has written a new introduction to this compilation of the most important paintings, expanded now to include Balthus's last work, The Waiting, and the controversial Guitar Lesson from 1934. Rare photographs show the young Balthus in his studio, while more recent images by his friend Henri Cartier-Bresson complete this tribute to one of the great artists of recent times.