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Count Balthazar Klossowski De Rola, or as he was better known - Balthus, was born in Paris in 1908. He was to become one of the most controversial surrealist painters, about whom very little is known - his title of "count", too, is of uncertain origin, however it was one he insisted upon. What is especially alluring about his painitngs is their particularly disturbing iconography, often depicting naked pubescent girls in reclining, pensive or at times very unlikely or erotic postures.

His painting "The Street", exhibited in 1933, caused a considerable stir in the public due to its unreasonably disturbing content - at first sight, the painting merely shows several stylised figures as they walk along a street. However on closer inspection, one sees there is something definitely odd about the painitng - the figures seem disjointed and aloof - they all seem isolated, and the whole mood thus set in the painitng is one of mystery - an effect owned by all of Balthus' masterpiece.

Another painting which caused great scandal was "la lecion de guitare" which was banned after its exhibit, due to its erotic content - a girl being held in the lap of her guitar lesson teacher, in a highly provocative posotion, almost as if the girl herself was being played like a guitar. Balthus himself later admitted that he had executed the work purely to shock the 1930's public.

In 1940, he was wounded in war and settled in Champrovent in Savoy. He worked in theatre, designing sets such as one for Camus's "etat de siege', and also designed costumes. Picasso was an admirer of Balthus, and in 1941 buys "l'enfants Blanchard". He lived for a while in Rome, then travelled to Japan where he met his second wife Setsuko Ideta.

Balthus died this very year, 10 days before his 93rd birthday, in his Grand Chalet at Rossiniere, in Switzerland.

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