Balthus: Cats and Girls - the exhibition catalogue from The Metropolitan Museum of Art available to buy at Museum Bookstore

Balthus: Cats and Girls

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'The catalogue of Balthus: Cats and Girls is a beautiful piece of work, admirably levelheaded in its treatment of his involvement with his young models' - The New Republic

An insightful look at Balthus's fascination with cats and girls, including his controversial paintings of young adolescents

Balthus's lifelong fascination with the dark side of childhood resulted in his most iconic works: canvases depicting girls on the brink of puberty, hovering between innocence and knowledge. In these pictures, the artist mingled intuition into his young sitters' psyches with overt erotic desire and forbidding austerity. Balthus's portraits of a local young Parisienne named Therese Blanchard, and his interior scenes featuring Therese's various successors, are among the most powerful depictions of childhood and adolescence in the Western canon.

Far from being mere pretty girls in frilly dresses, Balthus's subjects are self-possessed and self-absorbed individuals, with a palpable but mysterious interior life. Also present in many of the images are cryptic cats - often smiling, sometimes leering, and likely as not standing in for Balthus himself. Balthus: Cats and Girls focuses on the early decades of his career, from the mid-1930s to the 1950s.

Sabine Rewald draws on her extensive (and firsthand) knowledge of the artist, as well as on interviews with the models themselves, to explore the origins and permutations of his obsession with depicting adolescents. She addresses the crucial influence of such key figures as the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, his mother's lover, who acted for a time as Balthus's surrogate father. And she includes the previously unknown voices of the girls, whose recollections provide a unique perspective to some of the most recognizable and potent images of the twentieth century.

  • Author: Sabine Rewald is Jacques and Natasha Gelman Curator, department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • Hardcover: 176 pages | 136 colour and 34 black and white illustrations
  • Date published: October 2013
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-0500093788
  • Product Dimensions: 25.7  x 24.1 cm