(February 29, 1908 in Paris – February 18, 2001 in Rossinière, Switzerland), was an esteemed but controversial Polish/French modern artist.
His work has strongly influenced several contemporary artists; among them Jan Saudek, Will Barnet, Duane Michals, John Currin, Eli Levin, Emile Chambon and Elena Zolotnitsky.
He has also influenced the filmmaker Jacques Rivette of the French New Wave. His film Hurlevent (1985) was inspired by Balthus's drawings made at the beginning of the 1930s. As he says in an interview with Valerie Hazette: "Seeing as he's a bit of an eccentric and all that, I am very fond of Balthus (...) I was struck by the fact that Balthus enormously simplified the costumes and stripped away the imagery trappings (...)".
A reproduction of Balthus's Girl at a Window (a painting from 1957) prominently appeared in François Truffaut's film Domicile Conjugal (Bed & Board, 1970). The two principal characters, Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) and his wife Christine (Claude Jade), are arguing. Christine takes down from the wall a small drawing of approximately 25 x 25 cm and gives it to her husband: Christine: "Here, take the small Balthus." Antoine: "Ah, the small Balthus. I offered it to you, it's yours, keep it."
In his formative years his art was sponsored by Rainer Maria Rilke, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse. His father, Erich Klossowski, a noted art historian (he wrote a monograph on Daumier), and his mother Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro (known as Baladine Klossowska) were part of the cultural elite in Paris. Balthus's older brother, Pierre Klossowski, was a philosopher and writer influenced by theology and the works of the Marquis de Sade. Among the visitors and friends of the Klossowskis were famous writers such as André Gide and Jean Cocteau, who found some inspiration for his novel Les Enfants Terribles (1929) on his visits to the family.
The child in the work of Balthus:
Balthus, Game of Patience, 1943
Balthus, Guitar Lesson, 1943
Balthus, Joan Miro and his daughter Delores, 1937-1938
Balthus, Le Passage du Commerce Saint Andre, 1952-1954
Balthus, Nude with Arms Raised, 1951