By Guy Davenport
Airborne dirt and dust jacket notes: "The portray of Balthus, enigmatic, poetic, and arguable, is either deeply conventional and noticeably sleek. In tracing a few of its kinship with the poetry of Rilke (Balthus's formative years mentor), with Picasso and others, man Davenport makes an attempt during this set of meditations written over a number of years in his notebooks to put Balthus because the sleek grasp in whose fingers the nice culture of Western work now mostly lies. those terse notes recommend readings of numerous of the key work, hint subject matters and routine photos, and pose speculative rules in regards to the which means and nature of Balthus. those notes usually are not an orderly argument through an paintings critic yet a development of responses, roughly target, by means of a author who sees Balthus as a good poet in addition to an outstanding painter."
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Additional info for A Balthus Notebook
EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY satire became nineteenth-century observation. In the twentieth century observation became surreal. lt became an ironic sensuality, and the basis for satire, which was once moral, became irony. As if by attraction, or even kinship, observation, along with its concerns for sentiment and social justice, followed satire to sit on its new ironic base. Thus Surrealism in the hands of Max Ernst or R. B. Kitaj became a classical mode of the century and reinforced the century's characterization of reality as an enigma.
Braque painted in Greek. Balthus paints in the patrician French of Henry de Montherlant, aloof from vulgarity. Mitsou IS contemporary with Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus, and is itself a version of the Orpheus myth. OCTAVIO PAZ ends a poem dedicated to Balthus with ''La luz es tiempo que se piensa" ("Light is time thinking about itself," Eliot Weinberger translates; Paz, 95). "La vista, el tacto" ("Sight, Touch") meditates on the tactile abilities of eyesight, on light's sculpting matter, so that we see it according to the strategies of light on objects.
Balthus's girls are sexy, charming French adolescents painted with a fresh reseeing of the human body, with humor, with wit, with clarity, and with an innocence that we can locate in adolescent idealism itself rather than in an obsession. The young body has not yet accepted the permanent mask of clothing, as the faces of the young are not yet masks. It seems to me wrong to see a philosophical abstraction when the artist has given us flesh and blood, a perfection of tone and moment, a magic stillness of time, accurate perceptions of moods which few painters or poets can equal.