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Balthus dies in Switzerland at 92

Balthus was considered one of the finest realist painters of his time

(Keystone)

The worlds of art and politics have paid tribute to the French-born painter, Balthus, considered one of the finest realist painters of the 20th century, who died at the age of 92 in his home at Rossinière in Switzerland.

"An artist of exceptional talent both in drawing and painting, Balthus gave himself entirely to his art which he wanted to make timeless," said French President Jacques Chirac. "He was one of the most distinguished artists of his time."

The curator of Geneva's art and history museum, Caesar Menz, described Balthus as very much a contemporary painter, even though his style owed much to the Italian primitive movement.

And the Geneva historian and linguist Jean Starobinski, a friend of the artist for over 50 years, said Balthus transcended the contemporary evolution with his evocations of the great pictorial tradition.

Born Count Balthazar Klossowski de Rola of a Polish family living in Paris, Balthus died in the 18th-century chalet at Rossinière in Canton Vaud where he had lived for over 20 years with his Japanese wife, Setsuko. He had been ill for some time.

A figurative painter, self-taught Balthus was known for his provocative paintings of young women, often with surreal elements in the background.

Unlike most of his famous contemporaries, he remained faithful to figurative art. His later works showed adolescent girls absorbed in romantic dreams.

Many experts considered him to have been in the Old Master tradition of French artist Nicolas Poussin and Spain's Diego Velazquez.

He had the rare distinction of having work exhibited in Paris's Louvre museum during his lifetime.

by Richard Dawson


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