Giovanni Carandente’s Balthus is buried by art history and art critics reliant on antecedents, sources of inspiration and comparison, and negligent of internal motivation, artistic necessity and the invention of the artist

– Sir John Tenniel

the Piero-Della-Francesca-type dwarf who pulls back the curtains in The Room of 1954 (…) appears almost as a caricature of Tenniel’s Alice in the first chapter of her adventures (‘Down the Rabbit Hole’) where she draws aside the curtain and discovers the little door leading to the immortal garden. In Balthus’ enchanting picture, the ‘immortal garden’ is surely that golden light…

Balthus: Drawings and Watercolours, Giovanni Carandente, trans. John Mitchell, Thames and Hudson, London, 1983, p. 11 [all subsequent quotations from the same source; emphases throughout added]

an atmospheric light so personal to Balthus as to have remained unaltered from his first pictures of Savoy, or the Morvan district in central France, to the recent soft-focused views of the Latium village, Monte Calvello.

– p. 14

– Fernando Botero, Abu Ghraib 50, 2005

There exists another drawing (in the collection of the painter Botero in Paris), which is a preliminary sketch for The Guitar Lesson and features just one of the female figures (…), providing additional evidence of the deep and complex thought underlying the whole of this artist’s creative activity.

– p. 14

the artist had used reality the better to crucify it

– Artaud quoted re Cathy Dressing, ibid., p. 12

‘It would seem that painting is tired of going berserk, on the one hand, and poring over embryonic matter, on the other. Painting seems to be turning towards a kind of organic realism. So far from rejecting poetry, symbolic stoytelling, and that goes beyond normal experience, painting will be more than ever preoccupied with these things: and it will have surer ways of achieving them.’

– Artaud, in 1934, quoted in/at ibid.

– Fernando Botero in front of one of his Abu Ghraib paintings, c. 2005

It would have given us great pleasure to reconstruct this interesting chapter in Balthus’ career, his association with the theatre – a chapter not yet properly studied and remaining unknown except to those fortunate enough to have seen the productions in question.

– p. 13

‘The negligence with which he handled them [his drawings] is the hallmark of the true artist, for notwithstanding his self-consciousness and the assurance with which he hides his timidity, Balthus is not easily satisfied with what he does. To the contrary, he treats his work with the severity of a very demanding creator. He is neither complacent nor frivolous – though he occasionally likes to appear flippant – but is dedicated to his task and always critical of what he seems to produce with apparent facility.’

– John Rewald’s introduction to the E.V. Thaw exhibition catalogue, in ibid. p. 13

– Marino Marini, Dancer

He sees before him a face, his own reflected in a mirror, or somebody else’s, an unforgettable angelic or timorously sensual female figure, or else, perhaps, a vase of flowers or some apples – and to all these real and tangible things he subordinates himself, yet at the same time adding his own intimate viewpoint, his own method of looking at people and objects, his own poetic dream. These living beings or flowers, even though scrutinized in all their evident reality, thus assume an emblematic aspect which transports them to another sphere, the private and personal sphere of the artist, far from the world of their own origin. In modern art, only Marino Marini, with his famous gallery of sculpted portraits, has been able to equal Balthus in reconciling independence from the subject matter with a total submission to it. For Balthus, as for Marini, visual likeness is a completely secondary consideration, even while remaining an ineradicable necessity.

– p. 16 [Marini heads here]

– René Char, photo by Man Ray, 1933

la caresse de cette guêpe matinale que les abeilles désignent du nom de jeune fille et qui cache dans son corsage la clé de Balthus

– René Char quoted in ibid., p. 18

The critic John Russell says that reading for Balthus has been ‘one of the supreme activities’ and adds perspicaciously that not only was the act of reading important to him ‘but the look of the act of reading’ …

– p. 8