Autoportrait (1940) by Balthus

Autoportrait - Balthus - 1940

Artwork Information

MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions44 x 32 cm (17 3/8 x 12 3/8 in)
Art MovementExpressionism
Current LocationPrivate collection

About Autoportrait

The artwork “Autoportrait” is a self-portrait executed by the artist Balthus in the year 1940. It is an oil on canvas that measures 44 x 32 cm (17 3/8 x 12 3/8 in) and belongs to the art movement known as Expressionism. As a genre, it depicts the artist by himself, which is a tradition of self-reflection in visual art. Currently, this work is held in a private collection, which signifies that it is not on public display.

In the artwork, Balthus presents a candid representation of himself, seated with one hand holding a palette and the other grasping a paintbrush. His gaze confronts the viewer directly, with a piercing intensity that suggests both self-assurance and scrutiny. The composition of the portrait is straightforward, encompassing the artist against a nondescript, dark background that focuses attention on the figure. The muted color palette is primarily composed of earth tones, reinforcing the solemn mood of the portrait.

Balthus’s brushwork varies across the canvas, with the textures in the clothing and skin rendered in meticulous detail, while the background appears more roughly treated. The painting style is indicative of Expressionism, where instead of aspiring to photorealistic accuracy, the artist seeks to convey his psychological state and persona through the manipulation of color, form, and brushstroke. Balthus’s self-portrait conveys a tangible presence, as if he is engaging with the viewer across time and space, revealing himself not just as a painter, but as a subject of his own artistic inquiry.

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