Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Wednesday Post

Balthus: the Philatelic Legacy
Count Klossowski de Rola leaves the Infinite Art Tournament.

I refuse to confide and don't like it when people write about art. - Balthus

If you want to be a subversive artist, you really can't subvert anything more entrenched than the mythos of the starving artist, and in this sense Count Klossowski de Rola was certainly a radical. Raised in great wealth, he was sponsored in his early days by Rainer Maria Rilke, who was his mother's lover, and family friends like André Gide and Jean Cocteau. In later years, he enjoyed a palace in Switzerland with his wife who was 35 years his junior. I mean, Bono sang at his funeral.

His work is dominated by pubescent and prepubescent female nudes and a rendering of space that invites speculation as to whether he was cleverly distorting the norms of perspective, aping others who were cleverly distorting the norms of perspective, or just wasn't a very good draughtsman.  In general the Art Establishment, and the French Republic, take him seriously:

Whereas someone claiming to act on behalf of a Somali postal service evidently sees his images as an opportunity to sell some legitimized T & A, producing "Somali postage stamps" the possession or use of which within Somalia would almost certainly be viewed by many as a potentially capital crime.

Honestly, it's hard to figure who should be the most offended by this: the Somali people?  Philatelists?  The Balthus Estate?

My strong initial impression of Balthus was that he was without merit and that his reputation was a stone cold art-historical error, but recently I had the opportunity to see this piece at MOMA in New York City, and confess that it is really something in person.


Nichim said...

Good riddance. But I'll be sure to notice that one painting next time I go to the MOMA. Or if I see one at some other museum. Everything I know about art history I learned from the Infinite Art Tournament, and for this I am very thankful. (That actually sounds like I'm thankful that I never had any other art history instruction, which wasn't the effect I was going for, but sure, yeah, I'm grateful for everything that got me where I am today!)

Elizabeth said...

Farewell to Le Roi des Chats.