Balthus bôlˈthəs, bălˈ– [key], 1908–2001, Polish-French painter, b. Paris as Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola. Balthus is sometimes regarded as one of the most important figurative painters of the modern era. He began painting as a young man and had his first one-man show in 1934. Balthus soon developed extraordinary technical skill and a distinctive style, producing poetic, calm, yet erotically charged and oddly disorienting paintings. Many of them are extremely large with thickly built-up surfaces and feature dreamy, sensual, and enigmatically posed pubescent girls often accompanied by cats. Many of these works have been charged with prurience and proved extremely controversial. His other typical subjects are brooding landscapes and distinctive portraits. Balthus was also known for his stage designs. His elder brother, Pierre Klossowski, 1905–2001, was a writer, translator, artist, and filmmaker.

See his memoirs (2002); biography by N. F. Weber (1999); S. Rewald, Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations (museum catalog, 2013).

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