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Quote of Note | Ian Buruma

(Balthus)“To be sure, the marvelous paintings by Balthus of the twelve-year-old Thérèse [Blanchard], dreamily gazing at the viewer with her white panties showing (Thérèse with Cat, 1937), or the painting reproduced in the catalog of the nude Laurence Bataille (daughter of Georges Bataille) stretched back, cat-like, in a chair, while a sinister-looking person draws the curtains to throw light on her naked form (The Room, 1952–1954), are unsettling, but not because of anything pornographic….What is disturbing about Balthus’s pictures of girls is not just the age of his models, but the atmosphere, which is creepy, full of dread and latent violence, and yet extraordinarily beautiful. Girls are trapped in angular, often torturous poses in tight gloomy spaces. There is something in Balthus’s art of those claustrophobic Victorian novels about children locked up in dark attics.”

-Ian Buruma, writing in The New York Review of Books about “Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations,” on view through January 12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pictured: Balthus. Thérèse Dreaming (1938)

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