A Balthus Notebook by Guy Davenport

By Guy Davenport

Dirt jacket notes: "The portray of Balthus, enigmatic, poetic, and arguable, is either deeply conventional and greatly glossy. In tracing a few of its kinship with the poetry of Rilke (Balthus's formative years mentor), with Picasso and others, man Davenport makes an attempt during this set of meditations written over a number of years in his notebooks to put Balthus because the sleek grasp in whose palms the nice culture of Western work now mostly lies. those terse notes recommend readings of a number of of the key work, hint topics and routine photographs, and pose speculative principles concerning the that means and nature of Balthus. those notes aren't an orderly argument by way of an artwork critic yet a development of responses, roughly aim, via a author who sees Balthus as a very good poet in addition to an excellent painter."

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They changed. We changed. We need to know why. BALTHUS, LIKE Kafka, is a master of gesture and posture. For Kafka the body was a semaphore transmitting a language we cannot read. Balthusfs gestures also defy interpretation. The luxuriant stretch, ecstatic comfort, looks out of the side of the eyes-these reserve meaning that would be apparent in Goya and Hogarth. They are Kafkafs existential kinetics. A THEATER of silence. A film about Balthus (Fellini has considered making one) would want Cksar Franck or Mozart for its soundtrack.

There is a profounder meaning to Balthus's ogres: they belong with the voluptuousness of his girls, for sex, when it comes, will be goblin as much as it will be Eros. Priapus is a homely and earthy god. Look at the goblin in Fuseli's Nightmare. BALTHUS WORKS in an imaginary space between interior and exterior worlds. What we see in his paintings is not what a photograph would record: certain cats and human figures would be missing. The man laying the fire in n e Golden Days may well exist only in the imagination of the girl studying her face in a mirror.

BAUDELA~RE, IN The Salon of 1846: "Many times, when faced with these countless samples of the universal feeling [erotic drawings], I have found myself wishing that the poet, the connoisseur and the philosopher could grant themselves the enjoyment of a Museum of Love, where there would be a place for everything from St. Teresa's undirected affections down to the serious debauches of the ages of ennui. No doubt an immense distance separates Le Dhparf pour l'ile de CyfhPre from the miserable daubs which hang above a cracked pot and a rickety side-table in a harlot's room; but with a subject of such importance, nothing should be neglected.

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