The Spell of the Studio: Balthus’ Portrait of Mrs. Cooley, 1937
One of the most controversial artists of the twentieth century, Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski) is best known for his charged imagery of adolescent girls. While his portraits of adult sitters are lesser known today, they played a crucial role in the 1930s when he painted many of his friends and patrons in his austere Parisian studio. Portrait of Mrs. Cooley is Balthus’ first work depicting an American sitter. This painting marks a turning point in the artist’s career, reflective of growing interest in him on this side of the Atlantic. This portrait, on loan from a private collection, joins two paintings by Balthus from the Wadsworth collection and reveals the deeply passionate yet ambivalent relationship between Balthus and his audiences at a moment when modern art became fashionable in the United States.