- Balthus (Balthazar Klossowski de Rola)
- Katia endormie
- signed Bs (lower right)
- charcoal and crayon on paper
Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris
Private Collection, U.S.A., (sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 16th November 1989, lot 200)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard, Balthus: dessins et aquarelles, 1971, illustrated on the cover of the catalogue
Jean Pierre Faye, Balthus. The Drawings
, Paris, 1998, illustrated p. 70 (titled Untitled
Virginie Monnier, Balthus. Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre complet, Paris, 1999, no. D1141, illustrated p. 338
A masterpiece of subtle draughtsmanship, Katia endormie
is an exquisite rendering of the human form that illustrates Balthus’ innate skill as an artist. Drawing became central to his œuvre when in 1961 he took up his place as director of the Académie de France at the Villa Medici in Rome. His work there, and the extensive social engagements he was expected to attend, gave him little time for painting, so he turned to drawing as a means of expression. Camille Viéville writes: ‘for the first time – with the exception of his work as an illustrator – drawing became an object in its own right and not only a stage in the genesis of a painting’ (C. Viéville, Balthus et le portrait
, Paris, 2011, p. 65, translated from French). It was at this time that he encountered Katia Terreri and her sister Michelina, the daughters of one of the employees of the Villa Medici; ‘The two sisters appear in a multitude of drawings beginning towards the end of the 1960s. Some are preparatory studies, others more complete works. In this case, Balthus uses an extraordinarily fine technique, following in the footsteps of the old masters’ (C. Viéville, ibid.
, p. 65, translated from French).
The brilliant detail and elegant handling of the present work reflect his interest in the classical traditions of draughtsmanship, but the subject matter is one that he made his own. In Katia endormie he captures his young subject in an attitude of graceful repose as she inclines backwards, resting her head to one side. The work is one of a series of drawings picturing Katia in this or a similar pose that he produced at this time. Many of Balthus’ depictions of adolescent girls show them sleeping or daydreaming, still lost in a childish world that distances them from the adults around them. It was a theme that occupied much of his career both in paintings such as Nu aux bras levés (fig. 1) and in his drawings, and led to the creation of a body of work that is unparalleled in its deft evocation of transitory youth.