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Surrealism à la Courbet

Nicholas Penny: Balthus

24 May 2001
BalthusCatalogue raisonné of the Complete Works 
by Jean Clair and Virginie Monnier.
Abrams, 576 pp., £140, January 2000, 0 8109 6394 9
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by Nicholas Fox Weber.
Weidenfeld, 650 pp., £30, May 2000, 0 297 64323 1
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... Balthus first attracted notice early in 1934 with a small exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. Several of the works he showed – The Street, The Window and Alice – seem as startling now as they must ...
7 February 2002
... anything.                          Leaves come sighing in the door.                   Bits of girl sigh like men.            Forgeries sigh twice. Balthus sighs and lies about it, claiming it was Byron’s sigh.         A sigh may come too late.                Is it better than screaming.                   Give ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Paula Rego

2 December 2004
... What is going on? you ask. Why? What next? Most of them are about the experience of girls and women, about the exercise of power and its abuse, and about subterranean aspects of human relationships. Balthus gave us the male view of pubescent girls trapped in closed rooms; Rego seems to be offering their obverse. Her women will escape. Balthus made the best illustrations for Wuthering Heights that I know ...

At the National Gallery of Scotland

Peter Campbell: Joan Eardley

13 December 2007
... native place. Juxtapositions are another pleasure of work seen in a provincial context. For example, Eardley studied briefly with James Cowie, whose painting of two schoolgirls (more Jean Brodie than Balthus, but with a bit of both) is tightly composed and painted – the opposite in handling and drawing of Eardley’s child portraits. It is not surprising that she argued with him. But to think of the ...
27 June 1991
Nothing if not critical 
by Robert Hughes.
Collins Harvill, 429 pp., £16, November 1990, 0 00 272075 2
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Frank Auerbach 
by Robert Hughes.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 500 09211 7
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Figure and Abstraction in Contemporary Painting 
by Ronald Paulson.
Rutgers, 283 pp., $44.95, November 1990, 0 8135 1604 8
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... collapse. Mine revived when he discussed the titles of de Kooning’s paintings. Surprisingly, he sees ‘a crisis of the visual and the verbal’ in Abstract Expressionism – and he is very good on Balthus and Bacon, bringing writers, Artaud, Bataille and Eliot, into close conjunction with the pictures ...

Prosecco Notwithstanding

Tobias Gregory: 21st-Century Noir

3 July 2008
The Lemur 
by Benjamin Black.
Picador US, 144 pp., $13, June 2008, 978 0 312 42808 2
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... moment ago was true, that he was coarse, compared to all this that Louise had set in place, the elegant table, the soft lights, the fine wines and delicate food, the expensively simple furniture, the Balthus drawing and the Giacometti figurine, the leather-bound books, the white-clad maid, the Glenn Gould tape playing softly in the background – all the rich, muted, exquisitely tasteful life that she ...

Slapping the Clammy Flab

John Lanchester: Hannibal by Thomas Harris

29 July 1999
by Thomas Harris.
Heinemann, 496 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 434 00940 7
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... which explains his fixations. It turns out that Lecter ‘stamm’ aus Litauen’, his father a count, his mother a Visconti. (In a bizarre aside, we are told later that he is a cousin of the painter Balthus.) The parents were killed by retreating German soldiers; his sister, Mischa, was killed and eaten by Nazi troops who had previously done the same to a young deer – hence Dr Lecter’s anti-deer ...

Just How It was

Anne Hollander: The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson

7 May 1998
Tête à Tête: Portraits by Henri Cartier-Bresson 
edited by E.H. Gombrich.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £32, February 1998, 9780500542187
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Henri Cartier-Bresson: Europeans 
edited by Jean Clair.
Thames and Hudson, 231 pp., £29.95, January 1998, 0 500 28052 5
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... and wrinkled brow together. Jean Genet’s ringless hand is pudgy and partially bandaged as it waits to take the cigar from his lips, Parisian streets humming behind his leatherclad bulk (1963). Balthus in 1990 holds a porcelain coffee-cup near his quizzical face as he regards us with his back to the light, the shape of his head inviting comparison with the tallboy behind it. There seems to be a ...

Words as Amulets

Ange Mlinko: Barbara Guest’s Poems

3 December 2009
The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest 
edited by Hadley Haden Guest.
Wesleyan, 525 pp., £33.95, July 2008, 978 0 8195 6860 1
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Women, the New York School and Other True Abstractions 
by Maggie Nelson.
Iowa, 288 pp., £38.50, December 2007, 978 1 58729 615 4
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... exploration of this recursion, and the meaning of time and its loss, takes place in its own private Switzerland of lofty mental Alps and political neutrality. She keeps company with Nabokov and Balthus there, and meanwhile, in the real Türler shop on Paradeplatz in Zurich, one can view the famous Cosmos Clock, which houses a mechanism that rotates the firmament once every 25,794 years, the period ...


J.P. Stern

3 November 1983
The Sacred Threshold: A Life of Rainer Maria Rilke 
by J.F. Hendry.
Carcanet, 184 pp., £9.95, July 1983, 0 85635 369 8
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Rilke: sein Leben, seine Welt, sein Werk 
by Wolfgang Leppmann.
Scherz Verlag, 483 pp., £11, May 1981, 3 502 18407 0
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Rainer Maria Rilke: Leben und Werk im Bild 
edited by Ingeborg Schnack.
Insel Verlag, 270 pp., £2.55, May 1977, 3 458 01735 6
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... paradise. To one side of the inhabitants of the Almanach de Gotha, they included Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky and the Pasternak family, Ellen Key and Klara Liebknecht, Paula Modersohn-Becker, the young Balthus and his mother, Baladine Klossowska (with whom, though she came from Breslau, he corresponded in French), Lord Kitchener and Walther Rathenau, Alexander Zaharov and Marianne Mitford, Gerhart ...

Love Stories

Edmund White

4 November 1993
To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life: A Novel 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Quartet, 246 pp., £12.95, November 1991, 9780704370005
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The Man in the Red Hat 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup.
Quartet, 111 pp., £12.95, May 1993, 0 7043 7046 8
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The Compassion Protocol 
by Hervé Guibert, translated by James Kirkup.
Quartet, 202 pp., £13.95, October 1993, 9780704370593
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... in Moscow during the last days of the USSR; a disastrously gloomy stay in Crete in the house of a rich Greek painter named Yannis; and the successful pursuit of the eccentric, reclusive painter Balthus. The effect of putting Aids in the background of a cops-and-robbers tale of the art world is to make it all the more menacing. At the end of a long paragraph the narrator mentions he’s in a café ...

Dreams of the Decades

Liz Jobey: Bill Brandt

8 July 2004
Bill Brandt: A Life 
by Paul Delany.
Cape, 336 pp., £35, March 2004, 0 224 05280 2
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Bill Brandt: A Centenary Retrospective 
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... and the hint of sexual menace. Brandt called them ‘experimental interiors’, and admitted that one of his early experiments, usually called the ‘Hampstead nude’, was ‘a bit inspired by Balthus, whom I then very much admired’. There is certainly a similarity: a pale-skinned, naked young girl sitting on a wooden chair in a slightly shabby floral Victorian bedroom, watchfully doing the ...

Even My Hair Feels Drunk

Adam Mars-Jones: Joy Williams

2 February 2017
The Visiting Privilege 
by Joy Williams.
Tuskar Rock, 490 pp., £16.99, November 2016, 978 1 78125 746 3
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Ninety-Nine Stories of God 
by Joy Williams.
Tin House, 220 pp., £16.95, July 2016, 978 1 941040 35 5
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... or Cheerios,’ Jenny’s mother asks. ‘Cheddar or Swiss?’ The double perspective is maintained through the whole story, with the parents never suspecting that their daughter is like a child in a Balthus painting or a Lorca poem. This is transgression at a high pitch, so uncomfortable though so unarguable as a literary performance that the temptation is to declare it unforgettable then forget it ...

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