The Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, Kunstforum in Vienna and Académie de France à Rome - Villa Medici are presenting Italy's first major Balthus retrospective after the one held by Palazzo Grassi in 2001. The exhibition will examine the multiple and enduring links between Balthus and Italy to cast fresh light on the singular work of this leading 20th-century figure.
As well as a selection of drawings and photographs, the exhibition spread across two venues – the Scuderie del Quirinale and Villa Medici – presents more than 80 paintings from leading museums and private collections worldwide. Fascinated in his youth by the Masters of the Tuscan Renaissance, especially Piero della Francesca and Mantegna, Balthus’ painting drew on a reflexivity and clarity of thought inherited from the Italy eulogized by the poet Rilke and the art historian Meier-Graefe. His love of Italian art originated in 1961, on his long residence in Rome as director of Villa Medici. At that time he studied drawing and fresco techniques painstakingly and conceived restoration projects for the mansion and gardens, originally and sometimes ambiguously inspired by the rapport between past and present.
The catalogue presents Balthus’ work in a themed itinerary marked by comparisons highlighting the influence of literary models such as Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, underscoring the importance of certain friendships (Artaud, Derain and Giacometti), and illustrating procedures typical of his painting, his uncommon use of models, drawings and photography, and the settings of his ateliers.