La Rue by Balthus is a painting that captures the hustle and bustle of everyday life in a crowded street. Completed between 1933 and 1935, the artwork presents ordinary moments on a grand scale using traditional painting techniques. The scene depicts people going about their everyday lives, yet there is an underlying sense of tension and isolation. This makes it of great interest to Surrealist artists who were exploring the themes of sexuality and mental isolation at that time.
Balthus’s works were known for being somewhat conservative formally, but their subject matter often raised controversy due to their erotic and disturbing atmosphere. La Rue is no exception as it explores sexual taboos in a public space while also portraying mental alienation in such an environment. Despite this, Balthus’s commitment to classical painting techniques is evident in La Rue, with his use of precise lines, harmonious colors, and careful composition.
The exhibition “Balthus” brings together over 50 paintings from every phase of his oeuvre. One such work is Passage du Commerce-Saint-André which exemplifies Balthus’s engagement with modern concerns despite his reliance on classicism within his artistry. Etude Pour “La Rue” is an India ink on paper study intended to test new compositions that eventually made it into the final version of La Rue. Overall, Balthus’s work demonstrates both commitment to classical painting while reflecting the concerns and controversies of the modern era in a restrained yet charged manner.