Balthus the Draftsman


The exhibition features a selection of drawings by Balthus which the artist’s family has placed with the museum as long-term loans..

For Balthus (Paris, 1908 – Rossinière, 2001), drawing lay at the heart of his practice. It was both a system for understanding and analyzing the world around him, and a crucial step in making his paintings. The drawings are simple fragmentary private studies, milestones along the way to creating his large painted compositions, yet they reveal the artist’s creative process. They are in fact the trace of an original mental image and the problems raised by transferring that image to the canvas, from positioning the composition and the treatment of the volumes, to the distribution of light and studying details that are part of the particular atmosphere that so permeates Balthus’s world.
Initially a tool wielded by the artist, drawing later became an autonomous means of expression, producing independent works of art, elaborated and intended to be admired for themselves. The formats of the drawings would later prove more ambitious, the supports more varied. Symptomatically, the artist set aside for drawing and only drawing one room of his apartment in the Villa Medici, the French Academy in Rome, where he served as director from 1961 to 1977.
Balthus drew, smudged and blurred, erased, added watercolors. He availed himself of both the velvety trail of the lead pencil and the sharp line of the pen nib. Some of the drawings, couched on the paper in a quick or nervous gesture, seem to translate the tension of his thought process, while others, precisely traced out, suggest reflection or a concern for exploring a formal problem. The subjects are simultaneously varied and repetitive, even obsessional. In search of an adequate framing or just the right position of a body, Balthus would begin anew with each drawing, readjust, and tirelessly pursue a long maturation process in terms of gesture.

Exhibition curator: Camille Lévêque-Claudet, curator

Credits and image caption:
Balthus, étude pour "Katia lisant", 1968-1970. Crayon et encre de Chine sur papier, 19,5 × 22 cm. Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, dépôt à long terme de Harumi Klossowska de Rola (Fonds Balthus), 2019. © Balthus / Harumi Klossowska de Rola. Photo: MCBA


Balthus the Draftsman

Camille Lévêque-Claudet, Balthus dessinateur (FR), 32 p., 27 ill., Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, 2023 (coll. Espace Focus, n° 9)

CHF 5.-