In December 2017, one Balthus’ painting from his renowned ‘Thérèse Blanchard’ series provoked controversy in the art world with more than 10,000 people signed a petition asking the Metropolitan Museum of Art to take down the painting because it is considered ‘sexually suggestive’.
Thérèse sur une banquette
A painting from the same series will be offered at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale on 13 May. Thérèse sur une banquette, a 1939 canvas by Balthus that features a 14-year-old girl on the bench, is expected to fetch between US$12m-18m. It has secured a thirty-party guarantee so it is set to become the artist’s most expensive painting ever auctioned.
Balthasar Klossowski de Rola (1908-2001), known as Balthus, was a Polish-French modern artist. In his divergence from modernity, Balthus evolved a personal and unique type of avant-garde art and a figurative style through a combining the procedures of the Old Masters with certain aspects of Surrealism.
In late 1935, Balthus became acquainted with Thérèse Blanchard, who was a member of a large family who lived near the artist’s new studio in Paris. Balthus created 10 portraits of Thérèse Blanchard between 1936 and 1939, and Thérèse sur une banquette is the last of the series. Thérèse was 14 years old when she posed for this painting.
The painting hung in the Sherwoods’ living room for nearly 60 years
It was last seen publicly as the cover of the Cats and Girls exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013
The painting has been kept in the collection of Dorothy and Richard Sherwood, who served as executives of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It hung in the Sherwoods’ living room for nearly 60 years, and was last seen publicly as the cover of the Cats and Girls exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2013.
Balthus’ Thérèse Dreaming (1938)
One of the best-known paintings from the Thérèse series is probably Thérese Dreaming that shows a girl sitting on a chair leaning back with her underwear visible. In 2017, it sparked a petition demanding its removal from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In spite of criticisim for romanticising voyeurism and the objectification of children by showcasing the work to the public, the Museum refused to take down the painting and said it provides an “opportunity for discussion.”
The auction record for the artist is currently held by Lady Abdy, a 1935 painting that sold for US$9.9m at Christie’s New York in 2015.
Balthus (1908-2001). Thérèse sur une banquette
Created in: 1939
Size: 72.7 x 91.9 cm
Estimate: US$12,000,000 - 18,000,000
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale
Auction date: 13 May 2019｜7pm
4 May 2019｜10am - 5pm
5 May 2019｜1pm - 5pm
6 - 11 May 2019｜10am - 5pm
12 May 2019｜1pm - 5pm
13 May 2019｜10am - 12pm