Balthus’ brilliance

The unique oeuvre of Balthus can now be discovered in Vienna.

The Bank Austria (BA) Kunstforum, a gallery situated near the Burgtheater, is currently presenting the painter’s most important works. However, the exhibition’s setup is rather comprehensive and therefore enables visitors to dive deep into the artistic galaxy of the Paris-born painter.

Balthasar Klossowski de Rola’s most popular works are portraits in biedermeieresque settings and extravagant cat pictures. Most of his paintings are mysterious and complex. They are throwing questions at the beholders, challenging them by offering several possible meanings.

Balthus’ paintings are mostly restricted to a small number of colours such as beige and ochre. There are only a few exceptions that feature a wider range. One room is dedicated to his “Cosi fan tutte” stage and costume drafts.

Curators Evelyn Benesch, Cecile Debray and Matteo Lafranconi also put a controversial series of Polaroids on display. The photos show a bare-breasted teenage girl. Balthus was accused of paedophilia and pornography after taking these pictures. An exhibition even had to be cancelled due to the public outcry. At the BA Kunstforum (, it is in the eye of the beholder.

Balthus – who was friends with Alberto Giacometti and David Bowie – died in 2001. The Balthus exhibit – which is based on paintings from different private collections and museums especially in Switzerland and France – follows remarkable exhibitions of artworks by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Hubert Schmalix and Herbert Brandl.

Kehrer Verlag published the official Balthus exhibition catalogue. For more information, visit

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

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