Balthus in Rome

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Julie Beckers reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by Balthus at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, on view through January 31, 2016.

Beckers notes that "mental isolation is a recurring element in much of Balthus’s work; figures depicted in odd and suggestive angles seem detached from their surroundings, their gaze cannot be caught, giving the viewer the sense of being a voyeur… Balthus was equally fascinated by games, youth and adventure, themes that are important features in his work… This sense of playfulness is mostly felt in the space devoted to the artist’s obsession with Alice in Wonderland and Lewis Carroll. Here, the viewer is welcomed by the self-indulgent and strange self-portrait titled Le Roi des Chats (1937) which Balthus signed 'HM The King of Cats painted by himself'. The artist, accompanied by his muse the cat, addresses the viewer from above in contrapposto pose… The exhibition also examines Balthus’s collaborations with the playwright Antonin Artaud."

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