Balthus: An S.O.S. for Painting
Post #1526 • February 29, 2012, 8:43 AM • 9 Comments
Today, February 29, Leap Day, is the birthday of Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, known as Balthus. Here is Balthus's "S.O.S. for Painting" from Balthus in His Own Words.
I'm sending out an S.O.S. to save painting because the love of painting is dead. I even believe that painting doesn't exist anymore. I just can't understand what painters today are doing. It's called "contemporary art"... For me, it's merely something executed without mastery. In painting, there are certainly no rules but there is nevertheless technical mastery to be acquired. In the past, everyone possessed this mastery, right down to the least-gifted painter. Painting was a craft then. Today, to paint means to do absolutely anything at all. I remember when Mirò showed his latest paintings to Picasso, he said to him indignantly, "Mirò... at your age?"
Today people are shamed to see popular traditions disappearing little by little. Great painting used to feed on popular art. There was no difference between the two. And when someone wanted to become a painter, he had to do an apprenticeship. I've known all the great masters of this century and they all bemoaned the same thing: The painter's craft has disappeared.
In the end, perhaps modernity consists in not knowing how to make phrases with paint.
The only modernity I admit to is in the sense that Baudelaire understood it.
As Gero von Boehm puts it in Kishin Shinoyama's little catalogue of photographs of Balthus's chalet,
[Balthus] is one of the few remaining artists who meet the requirement Baudelaire set for modernity: that it be half ephemeral-transient, and half eternal-abiding.
Later he cites Baudelaire again: "Of all the angels, Lucifer is the most wonderful."