By Guy Davenport
Dirt jacket notes: "The portray of Balthus, enigmatic, poetic, and arguable, is either deeply conventional and appreciably glossy. In tracing a few of its kinship with the poetry of Rilke (Balthus's adolescence mentor), with Picasso and others, man Davenport makes an attempt during this set of meditations written over numerous years in his notebooks to put Balthus because the smooth grasp in whose arms the nice culture of Western work now largely lies. those terse notes recommend readings of a number of of the key work, hint subject matters and routine photos, and pose speculative rules concerning the which means and nature of Balthus. those notes usually are not an orderly argument through an artwork critic yet a development of responses, kind of aim, by means of a author who sees Balthus as a superb poet in addition to an outstanding painter."
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Additional resources for A Balthus Notebook
Northern Europeans used these beautiful carpets as table covers and wall hangings, as we can see in Holbein. Meadow and pasture in the Old Testament become the ground for Jesus' pastoral images, and in Greek poetry as early as Sappho and Archilochus the erotic affinity between meadow and girl which will persist through medieval and Renaissance art (in the Provenqal poets, Petrarch, Chaucer, Shakespeare) is already a mature convention. We find in the Cologne fragment of Archilochus: I said no more, but took her hand, Laid her down in a thousand powers, And put my soft wool cloak around her.
Ve16zquezfs dwarves and midgets serve to place an infanta or king in the chain of being as his society understood it. There is a profounder meaning to Balthus's ogres: they belong with the voluptuousness of his girls, for sex, when it comes, will be goblin as much as it will be Eros. Priapus is a homely and earthy god. Look at the goblin in Fuseli's Nightmare. BALTHUS WORKS in an imaginary space between interior and exterior worlds. What we see in his paintings is not what a photograph would record: certain cats and human figures would be missing.
The Cup of Coffee (1960), an essay about its motif, meditating on its descent from the odalisques of Delacroix and Ingres through Matisse, places a girl in an arabesque of carpets and floral textiles. The Turkish Room (1966), The Three Sisters (1965), Sleeping Nude (1980) also deploy girls on a ground of meadowy carpets. CHARDIN PAINTED in an age of conversation, Rembrandt in one of argument and disputation: both depict objects found in darkness by a remote light. Chardin's light is mellow, kind, sweet.