Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Le Grand Chalet" of Balthus...

Balthazar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001), aka Balthus, aka "Le Roi des Chats" (The King of Cats), the controversial painter of the erotic dreamlife of pubescent girls (as imagined by a dirty old man?), had lived several lives before he arrived in Rossinière, Switzerland in 1977 at the age of 69. His second wife, Setsuko Ideta was thirty-five years younger than him. Here he discovered and quickly moved into the magnificant and slightly shopworn estate he would call "Le Grand Chalet." It was a home to be reckoned with...

This giant house was full of rooms that Balthus decorated with eccentric fervor. "The Room Full of Toys," was a shrine to all of the toys that his daughter, Harumi, had played with in her childhood. Another room was filled with hundreds of exotic birds, uncaged, just flying around. And so on...

Henri Cartier-Bresson and his wife, Martine Frank, photographed Balthus and his family quite informally as they went about their days at the Grand Chalet in Rossinière in the 1990's. It is not hard to imagine that as Balthus gradually lost his ability to paint and draw, (and fornicate?), his entire life, and this home in particular, became a sublimated, living, breathing work of art.

OK sure, The notion of excentric old artists in their crazy sweaters and their decadent estates seems quaint and childish from a certain remove, but I would bet my dental insurance that to live in Balthus' mode of existence, just for one day, would be a fiercely humbling and eye-openning experience.

Here is where The King of Cats lives today.


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