It was the parlor at Champrovent which provided the setting for this study and the larger related canvasses. Based on the present work, the first large-scale oil painting was begun in the same year, and shows slight adjustments made in the feet, arms and clothing of the two figures (see fig. 1). Before finishing the first iteration of Le Salon in 1943, however, Balthus completed a second, more detailed version of the subject in 1942, now at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (see fig. 2). In addition to the subtler cast of light in the second canvas, the 1942 work witnesses additional flourishes in the carpets and furniture, as well as the replacement of the bowl of fruit with a pitcher and the addition of the farmer’s cat.
Georgette, the thirteen-year-old daughter of the farmer at Champrovent, served as the model for both figures in this painting. Seen sleeping on the sofa, she is the image of fantasy and carefree abandon. Several decades later, Georgette recalled posing for this series of works, stating that “Balthus had me kneel on the floor reading a book. But I did not care for books. And when I rested on the sofa, I would go to sleep” (quoted in Sabine Rewald, op. cit., 1984, p. 102). The figure on the floor, reading a book, also echoes the pose of Thérèse Blanchard in an earlier painting by Balthus, Les Enfants Blanchard (see fig. 3).
Combining the images of a sleeping and reading girl, Le Salon distills two themes that dominate Bathus’ universe. A focal point of his art, children are often depicted sleeping or day dreaming, enveloped in their own world and completely unaware of being observed, With her one leg resting on the couch and the other on the floor, her head titled in her sleep, the girl on the sofa recalls the imagery of sleeping girls in the series of paintings titled Le Rêve, executed between 1955 and 1957, as well as in a number of his nudes which feature the same pose (see fig. 4). The girl kneeling on the floor, reading a book, is equally removed from the reality around her; she is entranced by her book as much as the other girl is entranced by her dreams. The children in Balthus’ works are rarely preoccupied by the light-hearted games suitable for their age, and they almost always exist in their own universe, uninterrupted by adults. Despite seeming highly self-absorbed, their often alluring poses and the arrangement of their clothes suggest that the children are aware of the observer, the presumed innocence of their activities drawing even more attention to their dormant sexuality.
Discussing the artist’s treatment of children in his work, Sabine Rewald has observed: “Balthus never casts his children as pretty objects, depicted with bowls of fruit, mantel clocks, and patterned table covers in an overstuffed Victorian interior, as did the American painter John Carlin in his Forbidden Fruit. Instead, set against a harsh background, they appear all-important, as they would to someone their own age. The Balthusian children, when awake, rarely smile. They remain remote, pensive, lost in daydreams. These dreams sometimes produce languid abandon, at other times they induce the gangling postures that convey the sexual ambiguities that are part of puberty” (ibid., pp. 40-41). The series of Le Salon pictures, however, represent a departure from the usual setting described by Rewald insofar as the figures are placed in a petit-bourgeois interior, to which the artist paid as much attention as he did his characters. Describing this particular setting, Rewald identifies it as the farmhouse parlor, used only on holidays. At the time of Rewald’s interview at Champrovent in 1981, the entire parlor at the farmhouse seemed to exist untouched; the featured Napoleon III sofa and piano preserved as in the present work for many decades to follow.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale