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Paris 1908–2001 Rossinière (Switzerland)

Study for 'Nu à la veste rose,' 1927

Study for ‘Nu à la veste rose,’ 1927

Oil on millboard 

10 x 7½ inches 

25.4 x 19 cm


Baladine Klossowski, Paris, the artist’s mother

Paul Bourdin, Berlin

Elfriede Bourdin (d. 1982), Berlin

Sabine Rewald, New York, 1982-1990

Sale:  New York, Sotheby’s, 3 October 1990, lot 129, illustrated

Barclay Simpson (1921-2014), Berkeley

Julie Marie Simpson, Berkeley

Sale:  New York, Sotheby’s, 23 February 2006

Private collection, New York


V. Monnier and J. Clair, Balthus:  Catalogue Raisonné of the Complete Works, New York, 1999, p. 108, P 30, illustrated

Painted in 1927

An artist of mystery and provocation, Balthus rejected the usual conventions of the twentieth century art world.  He resisted all attempts to devise a biographical profile, and insisted on having his paintings seen rather than read about.  The subjects of his paintings, often devoted to the sexual awakening of children, have created controversy throughout his career.  His palette, doubtlessly modern and yet derived from the careful study of Old Masters, is remarkably distinctive, and gives his paintings a sophistication and harmonious appearance that is singular for his contemporaries.  His masters included Piero della Francesca, Nicolas Poussin, and, closer to his time, Pierre Bonnard.

The present painting is a preparatory sketch for one of the artist’s first paintings of the female nude, Nu à la veste rose, of 1927.  In this sketch Balthus has concentrated on the form and color of the satin pink jacket trimmed in blue in which the model is half-clothed in the final painting.  A square pillow rests against the bolster for contrast.  The elegant juxtaposition of these elements of color against the grey-green headboard heralds the artist’s future as a master of color.

According to a note on the back of the sketch, Sabine Rewald has observed that the ‘empire’ frame was chosen by the artist.

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