At a time when Modernist styles such as Cubism, Fauvism, Constructivism and Dada were de rigeur in Western and Eastern Europe and Russia, there was a singular painter at work, who disregarded these art movements in favour of his personal style.
Balthus, the Polish-French modern artist whose official name was Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, made paintings that were realistic yet used symbolism, that exuded tranquility yet contained a tension, merged eroticism and innocence, dream and reality.
Taking into account his childhood trauma – fleeing Paris to escape the first world war, his mother’s affair with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and a second world war flight to Switzerland – as well as his early exposure to artistic environments, it’s no wonder that Balthus knew how to connote his works and how to operate within the art world.
His international renown grew when exhibitions in the gallery of Pierre Matisse (son of Henri Matisse) and in the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York City, placed him firmly on the map as one of the last 20thcentury masters.
110 years after Balthus’ birth, The Fondation Beyeler Basel, stages a retrospective – the first since his 100th anniversary in a Swiss museum, in the country where the artist resided from 1917 until 1921, from 1945 until 1950 and again from 1977 until his death in 2001. Fittingly then, this retrospective will reflect every phase of Balthus oeuvre with some 50 important paintings that embody the legendary artist’s deeply enigmatic, avant-garde and unique images.
The Fondation Beyeler is only a 1-hour drive from the equally modernist-inspired, remarkable Widder Hotel Zurich, so make sure to include a visit to the Balthus retrospective in your culture-heavy Basel itinerary.