Magazine article The Spectator

Writing Wrongs

Magazine article The Spectator

Writing Wrongs

Article excerpt

On Tuesday, Count Balthasar Klossowski de Rola gave a masked ball in his Rossiniere chalet, and a wonderful party it was. For any of you unfamiliar with the name of my host, he is better known as the painter Balthus, whose biography by a lowlife named Norman Fox Weber was brilliantly reviewed in The Spectator by Frederic Raphael (19 February). I say brilliantly because Raphael sure got Fox Weber right for getting Balthus wrong. Raphael has probably forgotten more about art and life than the American Fox Weber will ever know, so writing his stinging review of the book must have been enjoyable. There's nothing more satisfying than delivering a low blow to a low-blow expert.

I call Fox Weber a lowlife because he ingratiated himself to Balthus and his family - the artist is in his mid-nineties - and then came up with the astounding discovery that Balthus was not a count at all, but descended from 'Jews of Breslau'. No shit, Sherlock! I always thought that what mattered was what an artist produced, not what name or personality he or she assumed. (Anyway, if Fox Weber thinks he discovered something phoney about Balthus, he's yet again dead wrong. Stories about Balthus's origins and title have been circulating for years, especially by people who cannot afford his prices.)

So good and to the point was Raphael's review that I have nothing to add. Only that I know Balthus and his wife Setsuko, as well as his children. My friend Elise Goulandris, who owns many of his works, first took me to the great man's chalet about five years ago. I purchased a couple of his works from Martin Summers, and then, two weeks ago, I wiped Martin out during a charitable auction in Gstaad for one of Setsuko's oils. (The proceeds went to Saanen Hospital, and Mark Birley and Harry's Bar did the catering. Needless to say I got so drunk I spent much too much money, and now I am dying to get ill so I can test the new instruments we bought for the hospital.)

I am not an art expert, but I love Balthus's work. In my humble opinion, Gianni Agnelli owns the best Balthus I've ever seen - naturally, a young girl. 'The Guitar Lesson' is owned by the Niarchos family and I sneaked a peek once. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.