Monday, September 30, 2013
Is Balthus the "Crazy Cat Lady" of Modern Art?
When London’s Tate Gallery asked the French painter Balthus for some personal details to include in a 1968 retrospective exhibition, Balthus replied via telegram: “No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures. Regards. B.” But how do you look at an exhibition such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations and not ask who this man and artist was? Cats may slink around the paintings, but the real provocation in the show’s title comes from Balthus’ long-controversial portraits of young, pre-teen girls, who pose with a mixture of feline grace and tweenage awkwardness that results in, if not child pornography, at least erotic unease for the viewer. Often cats appear as the only on-canvas observers of these models—wide-eyed voyeurs that might serve as stand-ins for the artist himself, whose life-long fascination with cats remains the one personal detail he freely shared. Is Bathus modern art’s “crazy cat lady”—the eccentric whose harmless obsessions taken to the extreme reveal a darker, psychological truth? Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "Is Balthus the 'Crazy Cat Lady' of Modern Art?"