Even though we expected a crowd yesterday, an artist friend and I decided to see the Balthus Exhibition at The Met one more time before it closed. I was again surprised by his precocious drawing series on the loss of his cat, Mitsou.
I had been stirred by its premature blossoming of a young artist’s gift, but yesterday my admiration developed to wonder.
Since I’ve spent that last several months looking at a reprint of the book, examining these drawings again in the gallery, the force, the conceptual (neurological, I really mean) power, the comprehension and manipulation of visual space is so advanced, I started to wonder if some other artist had created them.
How does a kid have that ability at that age?
The visual sophistication of those drawings is singular. On my way home in a cab last night I started to wonder if Balthus had any childhood in the sense of a visual innocence.
On October 3rd, we debuted an informal series, A Conversation among Painters, at Pratt.
Nancy Grimes and I hatched this idea last spring, realizing that although formal situations — panels, lectures — give valued experience to painting students, the spontaneous conversation among artists is rarely shared with them. We wanted to create an environment where artists sit informally and talk about topics they feel passionate about. Artists Hannah Barrett and Frank Lind completed our group. We met last Thursday during lunch. Balthus, the enigmatic painter of big themes and troubling narratives, was our topic. Students packed the room. We had a few images on the screen and easily fell into the issues, agreeing, disagreeing as we tried to plumb the depths of this singular artist and our reactions to him. Painting colleagues who joined us added more. Young painters rarely have access to this kind of conversation among the artists who teach them.
The Balthus Exhibition at The Met, Cats and Girls, is on view until mid-January 12, 2014.
More on this exhibition next week.
A group of Painting Faculty at Pratt discuss Balthus whose work is on view now at The Met.