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Vanished Splendors a Memoirby Balthus
"Although, as Balthus says, 'I have no real life to write about, only scraps of memory which, when connected, create a woven version of myself.' The result is a series of lovely, modest, graceful, profound mediations about life and art." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
Synopses & Reviews
The painter Balthus, whose tenacity and cultivated taste for secrecy have enveloped him in an aura of forbidding mystery, wrote this memoir at the end of his long life. A man who for decades opted to "give expression to the world" rather than to "express" himself speaks for the first and only time about his life, family, work, his theory of art and how it intersects with history, literature, and spirituality.
Balthus was born Balthasar Klossowski in 1908 to Polish art historian Erich Klossowski and his wife, the painter Elisabeth Dorothea Spiro. The family lived in Germany, France, and Switzerland. In this memoir Balthus describes his childhood with his mother and her lover — the poet Rainer Maria Rilke — who became Balthus's own spiritual mentor. He evokes la vie de boheme in Paris during the 1920s, his friendships with Picasso, Derain, Artaud, Giacometti, Saint-Exupéry, René Char, Pierre Jean Jouve, and Albert Camus. He discusses his paintings, offers glimpses into his marriage, and expresses his passion for Chinese art and the Swiss chalets and Italian villas that he helped to restore. He recalls touching moments with his beloved daughter Harumi and the inspiration he drew from his cats. Also, in a kind of final lesson, Balthus shares his thoughts about painting and creation, denounces contemporary art as being illusory and deceitful, and talks candidly about his Catholic faith and how it inspired his work.
"We are most charmed by the memoir's ease of expression, as if Balthus were confiding in us, as individuals," writes Joyce Carol Oates in her introduction to Vanished Splendors. "We are brought into a startling intimacy with genius."
"Vircondelet weaves together the disparate elements of the artist's memories, descriptions of process, art historical discourses and statements of religious devotion into a loosely interconnected whole that probes just a few themes with ever-greater depth and feeling....This great painter's candid immediacy in bringing to life encounters with the beautiful, famous, talented and with his own genius will have art junkies thoroughly hooked." Publishers Weekly
"Reclusive and silent on the subject of his loaded imagery, Balthus (1908-2001), a Polish count ensconced in a Swiss Alps chalet with his beloved Japanese countess and their daughter, was the Salinger of the art world, allowing only outsiders into his rarefied realm late in life when his eyesight was failing....Certainly Balthus is, as Oates writes, "one of the great originals" of twentieth-century art, and undoubtedly one of his most enthralling works of art is himself." Donna Seaman, Booklist
About the Author
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski, 1908-2001) was one of the most important painters of the twentieth century. Benjamin Ivry is a poet and biographer (Ravel, Poulenc, Rimbaud) who has also translated works by Jules Verne and André Gide, as well as a biography of Camus.
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