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It is the only important retrospective in the world celebrating the centenary of this major figure in the XXth century’s art history. An event. And the Pierre Gianadda Foundation, in Martigny, Switzerland, chose the Balthus exhibition to mark the foundation’s own thirtieth anniversary. It was inaugurated on November 19th in 1978.
Another event : the presence of Jean Clair in our studio of Canal Academie. Jean Clair, is the commissioner (together with Dominique Radrizzani) of this exhibition in Martigny, and certainly « the » specialist of Balthus’s work. And recently, in May 2008, Jean Clair was elected at the Academie Française.
This retrospective in Martigny leads us to consider all the periods and all the themes of Balthus’s work. Jean Clair guides us through the different stages of his life and the major paintings of each one. (His Polish-German-Jewish origins, his childhood in Beatenberg, Switzerland – Paris – the farm of Chassy in the French province of the Morvan – Villa Medicis – Japan - the big chalet of Rossinière, Switzerland…)
Observing Balthus’s paintings, you find several recurrent themes : Women – languishing young girls (nymphs) and cats, almost central figures in his paintings (the famous volume Mitsou (at the age of 11 with a foreword by Rilke) - le Roi des Chats - Thérèse rêvant – Le Salon – Les Poissons rouges – Le Chat de la Méditerrannée – Le Lever II).
All quite erotic in their inspiration…
In order to get better acquainted with the « Balthus mystery », Jean Clair talks about the painter Balthus, his technique, his aesthetics and his particular talent as an artist to dispose things in space. He also tells us about the aims, the ambition or the quest of the man Balthus.
There is so much to discover around Balthus, his life, his loves, his encounters, his friendships… (from Rilke to Pierre Jean Jouve, Antonin Artaud, Giacometti, Malraux or Fellini and so many other great figures of this time).
Jean Clair who knew Balthus quite well gives us some personal impressions and anecdotes of his meetings with Balthus. The strangest of them might have been his funeral at Rossinière, a Fellini-like procession of different people from the archbishop of Wroclaw to his artist friends in the snow-covered Swiss Alps…
An essential part of this program is certainly Jean Clair’s closer look at some works or masterpieces of Balthus (drawings of « The Wuthering Heights » by Emily Brontë). La Rue, Le Passage du Commerce St. André, Thérèse rêvant, Jeune fille endormie, Les Beaux Jours, La Toilette de Cathy (presented for the first time in Switzerland), La Leçon de Guitare.
Former director of the Picasso Museum in Paris, Jean Clair talks about these two major figures in the modern art world, Balthus-Picasso, what main characteristics would unite them or divide them.
And as a sort of conclusion, the commissioner of the Balthus exhibition Jean Clair, throws some light on the « mystery Balthus ».
A reminder : the Balthus Restrospective, an event that cannot be ignored, taking place until 23th of November 2008 at the Pierre Gianadda Foundation in Martigny, Switzerland, the only institution in the world celebrating Balthus’s centenary.
Listen to the visit in French of the Rétrospective de l’œuvre de Balthus à la Fondation Pierre Gianadda à Martigny
About Jean Clair from the Académie Française, commissioner of the Balthus Retrospective (together with Dominique Radrizzani) at the Pierre Giannada Foundation in Martigny, Switzerland. Jean Clair, de l’Académie française
Jean Clair has been commissioner of two other Balthus exhibitions, one at the Centre Pompidou in 1983 and another at the Palazzo Grazzi in Venice in 2001. He has been the commissionner of many other exhibitions amongst them « L’âme au corps » in Vienna, « L’Apocalypse Joyeuse », « Mélancolie, génie et folie en Occident » in Paris.
Jean Clair’s books :
Le sommeil de cent ans, Balthus, catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre complet, 1999, avec Virginie Monnier.
Autoportrait au visage absent, Gallimard,
Le journal d’un atrabilaire
Malaise dans les musées
Listen to other French programs :
« Balthus, moments partagés », par Arnaud d’Hauterives, Secrétaire perpétuel de l’Académie des beaux-arts
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