Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The MET Refuses to Remove Balthus' “Thérèse Dreaming” | Art or Teen Sexualization ?

Balthus' “Thérèse Dreaming” (1938) @ The MET

I wrote in Nymphalis carmen: Nympholepsy in Nabokov’s Oeuvre that Nabokov shared in Strong Opinions: "A contemporary artist I do admire very much, though not only because he paints Lolita-like creatures, is Balthus." (167) 

And Balthus shared in Balthus the Painter (1996), in reference to Nabokov: “I think we feel the same thing in the presence of young girls.”

We've done a number of posts on this blog about the debate between art and (teen) pornography.  Coincidentally, Peter Libbey reported in the New York Times that, despite over 8,000 virtual signatures on an online petition, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET), is refusing to remove Balthus' “Thérèse Dreaming” (1938) where a nymphet reclines with her hands behind her head with her left foot resting on the chair, which causes her panties to be exposed below her petite jupe.

According to the petition's website: "The Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children." And Mia Merrill, the petition’s author, opined that the painting is: "[...] blatant objectification and sexualization of a child [...]"

However,  Ken Weine, the MET’s chief communications officer, responded: “[...] visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression.” 


Peter Schjeldahl wrote in The New Yorker (Jan. 1, 2018): Thérèse was the daughter of a [...] a neighbor of Balthus's in Paris. At the time, she was twelve or thirteen years old, and Balthus was about thirty. He had been making paintings of her since she was around eleven [...]" 

Schjeldahl opined that the painting has an "erotic charge" and, as a side note, related that Balthus: "[...] had an affair with a teen-age daughter of Georges Bataille."