Le Passage Du Commerce Saint-Andre is a grand-scale painting by the Polish-French artist, Balthus. Painted between 1952 and 1954, it depicts a Parisian street scene with people in motion. The monumental piece of art is a study for one of Balthus’ largest works and exemplifies his extensive preoccupation with space and time dimensions related to figures and objects.
Balthus was born in Paris to expatriate Polish parents on February 29, 1908. He was encouraged to pursue art early on in life and moved to Switzerland after World War II before returning home to France. Le Passage Du Commerce Saint-Andre is housed at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel where one of the current exhibitions features his work that spans across six decades.
The painting captures not only the specificity of its location but also an architectural view so striking it could be considered almost abstract. It’s no secret that commercial architecture inspires various artists, but Balthus used tangible urban settings as springboards for more symbolic renderings. Le Passage du Commerce Saint-Andre portrays both ordinary movements daily witnessed by anyone walking down this specific street but also reveals features whose symmetry would usually go unnoticed by pedestrians rushing through regularity every working day morning.