A major figurative artist of the twentieth century, Balthus typically painted enigmatic scenes, often with young girls in suggestive poses. At the beginning of his career, he created fourteen illustrations for Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, a novel which held strong autobiographical resonance for him. This sketch relates to the project, although it was not used for any of the final illustrations. Balthus modeled the protagonists Heathcliff and Catherine after himself and his future wife, Antoinette de Watteville, who was engaged to another man at the time, conveying the psychological intensity of the situation by giving the figures a certain stiffness and awkwardness. "I want to put in them," he wrote, "tenderness, childish longing, dreams, love, death, cruelty, crime, violence . . ."
Study for "Wuthering Heights"
Pen and ink and Conté crayon on paper.
11 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches (292 x 241 mm)
Purchased on the Manley Family Fund and General Acquisitions Fund.
Stanislas Klossowski, Paris (the artist's son); E.V. Thaw & Co., Inc., New York; Mr. and Mrs. Louis F. Kannenstine, New York; Private collection, Vermont.