Offered by Stéphane Renard Fine Art
Old master paintings and drawings
Pencil and watercolor highlights on studio paper
Signed with a “Bs.” monogram lower right.
54.7 x 42.2 cm (framed 88.5 x 76 cm)
Price on request
Provenance: Frédérique Tison, Château de Chassy (Burgundy-Franche Comté - France)
Exhibition: Bevaix, Galerie Arts Anciens Balthus, paintings, watercolours, drawings November - December 1975 - number 21 of the catalogue (reproduced in black and white)
Bibliography: J. Clair, V. Monnier Balthus, catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre complète, Gallimard, Paris 1999 - number D843 reproduced in black and white (page 285)
Related works: A very similar study for “Getting Up” (55.2 x 43 cm) sold on May 8th 2014 at Sotheby's New York (lot 388) for $50,000 (the equivalent of €36,000). It is listed as D844 in the catalogue raisonné, which suggests that it was done just after ours. A larger (103 x 68.5 cm) and more accomplished study sold for 650,000 FRF (hammer price - equivalent to 99,000 €) at Briest in Drouot Montaigne on June 17th 1997 (lot 19).
In 1955, as he was residing at the Château de Chassy in the Morvan for two years, Balthus created a large painting entitled "Getting up". Balthus was inspired for this painting by the Italian masters and used his companion Frédérique Tison as a model. This masterful nude study, preparatory to the painting, was formely in the model’s collection. It reveals both her femininity and her fragility, and takes us to the heart of Balthus' ambiguous artistic universe.
1. The stay at Chassy, a key stage in Balthus' life
Balthus occupies a special place in 20th century art, which is often marked by the legacy of Marcel Duchamp or turned towards abstraction. Balthus on the contrary presents a figurative work, based on rigorous drawing and characterized by his ability to master form through meticulous construction. The work attracts and the artist disconcerts; there is somewhat of a "Balthus mystery", largely maintained and staged by the artist himself. During his lifetime, his work was the subject of numerous exhibitions organised in the world's greatest museums (at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1966, at the Tate Gallery in London in 1968, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1983-1984, and at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 2001, to name but a few).
Balthus was born on 29 February 1908 into a cosmopolitan family; his father was of Prussian and Polish origin and his mother, Elsa Dorothea Spiro, nicknamed Baladine, was of Ashkenazi and Russian descent. At the beginning of the war, his family took refuge in Switzerland, where he stayed with his mother while his parents separated. In 1919, his mother met the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 - 1926) who became her lover; Balthus (the nickname of the painter from which he chose his artist's name) was brought up in the artistic milieu of his mother's friends.
Balthus moved to Paris with his mother in 1924. He enrolled at the Grande Chaumière academy and frequented Pierre Bonnard's studio. In 1926, he travelled to Italy where he discovered the frescoes of Piero della Francesca and Masaccio, which had a lasting influence on his art. Influenced by the surrealists, he held his first solo exhibition in 1934. Alongside his paintings, which were increasingly successful, he created several theatre, ballet and opera sets, an activity he continued after the war. In 1938, he held his first exhibition in New York.
He married Antoinette de Watteville (1912-1997) in 1937, and, during the war, the couple moved to Switzerland. Their two sons were born there. In 1945 the couple separated and Balthus returned to Paris.
In 1953, Balthus, then aged 45, decided to move to the Château de Chassy in the Morvan region. He was soon joined there by his niece by marriage (the daughter of his brother Pierre Klossowski's wife from her first marriage), Frédérique Tison, who became his muse and mistress. At Chassy, facing the landscapes of the Morvan, in the immense space of the house, Balthus worked and created a huge number of works. His painting evolved to become closer to the fresco, in the manner of the Italian Renaissance masters.
Frédérique Tison accompanied Balthus to Rome when he was appointed Director of the Villa Medici by André Malraux in 1961. When they finally broke up in 1966, Balthus gave her Chassy where she settled. In 1962, during a trip to Japan, Balthus met Setsuko Ideta. She became his wife in 1967. In 1977, at the end of their time in Rome, they settled in a large chalet in Rossinière (Switzerland) where the painter lived until his death on 18 February 2001.
2. Getting up : description of the artwork and sources of inspiration
Balthus produced few artworks and they were sought after very early on in his career. Most of his drawings were executed in the preparatory phase of large paintings. For example, this drawing is a study for Getting up (161 x 130.4 cm), painted in 1955, which is displayed at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh (UK). Here Balthus depicts his favourite subject: the naked body of an adolescent girl offering herself to his pencils.
The drawing is reminiscent of Rodin's watercolours, but differs from them in the precision of the line, which gives it great clarity. As the art historian Serge Lemoine wrote, "the line sums up, condenses, synthesizes the form [...] When more volume is needed, to accentuate its value, to indicate a mass, Balthus resorts to hatching. The watercolour highlights, applied sparingly and without disorder, accentuate the impression of clarity and light.”
Frédérique Tison was 17 years old when she was used as a model for Getting up. She arrived a year earlier at Chassy and gradually became the artist's muse and companion. She is represented here from the front, in an ambiguous position that reveals both her determination and a certain fragility.
Her position is derived from a painting by Michelangelo Merisi, known as Caravaggio (1571-1610) Amor Omnia Vincit, also known as Amor Victorious, a painting that is now at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin (Germany). This picture was painted around 1601-1602, with dimensions close to those of Balthus' painting (156 x 116 cm). Should we see in its subject a key to understanding the real meaning of our painting, and read in Getting up a confession of Balthus' love for his model?
The pose of Amor Victorious places him in an unstable balance in which he reveals his entire anatomy without concession. Depicted from the front and with no possible escape, the body of Getting up is both triumphant and vulnerable. The pose emphasizes the girl's femininity, suggesting another possible reading: an allegorical vision of her awakening sexuality.
The fact that the head is raised backwards, unlike Caravaggio's painting, forbids any relationship between the model and the viewer, and creates a mood of strangeness. This detail is even more visible in the drawing, in which the head is like a barely sketched theatrical mask, with no connection to the body and which appears to have been placed on this powerful and majestic body.
We have chosen to frame this drawing in a 17th century Spanish frame, probably unfinished as it was left in natural wood.
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