Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, Balthus was born in Paris in 1908. Self-trained, the set of drawings he produced aged 12 were published with Rilke's help under the title of "Mitsou le chat". Balthus took the classic curriculum at the Lycée Calvin in Geneva ; as a teenager, he was given advice by Bonnard and Derain. A great admirer of Poussin, Balthus made copies of his work in le Louvre. In the early thirties, Balthus painted portraits of girls, landscapes and townscapes ; it was in fact by a picture called "la rue" (the street) painted in 1933 that he became known. The picture caused a scandal, and Balthus thus got to know Sartre and Breton. His later works often represent nude girls, who seem heedless of the prurient looks to which their body are subjected, cut off from the world, their empty gaze expressing the "inner silence" already present in the 1933 "la rue".
His pictures were shown in Paris in 1934, and then in 1946. In 1935, Balthus illustrated Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" with original lithographs. In 1956, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective show of his work, enabling him to reach full recognition. André Malraux then put him in charge of the Villa Medicis in Rome, a post he kept from 1961 to 1976.
Then came retirement to his chalet at Rossinière in Switzerland, where he continued to paint intimate scenes. Exhibitions of his work were regularly held in Paris (1956, 1971, 1977), in New York (1977) etc. With his first wife Antoinette Von Wattenwyl he had two children, Statchou and Thadée ; with his second wife Setsuko Ideta, married in 1967, Balthus had a daughter, Harumi. He died at his Swiss home in 2001, leaving behind him his unique oeuvre comprising some 350 paintings, 1000 drawings and numerous prints, mainly lithographs.