Balthus Polish/French, 1908-2001

French Painter, born in Paris, the son of the Polish painter and author E. Klossowski.  He had no formal training but had the reputation of being an infant prodigy and was encouraged by Bonnard and Derain, who were family friends, while the poet Rainer-Maria Rilke also interested himself in his early productions.  He passed his childhood in Switzerland and afterwards lived in seclusion outside Paris, shunning all publicity.  In 1961 he was appointed director of the Villa Medici.  His works up to the Second World War were street scenes and interiors in a style of poetic naturalism akin to that favoured by the group Forces Nouvelle.  His purpose was to endow the banalities of every day life with monumental dignity.  His later works consisted of interiors depicting adolescent girls absorbed in romantic dreams.  Critics have differed about these.  Some have regarded them as masterly expressions of Romanticism; it has also been said that 'no other painter has so shockingly depicted the stresses of adolescence'.  He also did décors for La Peste and L'État de Siège by  Albert Camus.  He exhibited in 1946 at the Gallerie des Beaux-Arts and in 1966 the Musée des Arts Décoratifs arranged a retrospective exhibition of his works, as did the Tate Gallery, London in 1968.