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Balthus

BALTHAZAR KLOSSOWSKI, OR BALTHUS, or the Count de Rola, as he preferred to be known later in life, died February 18 at the age of 92. His passing did not go unmarked: U2 frontman Bono sang a tribute at his funeral, and critics Michael Kimmelman and Jed Perl wrote appropriately admiring eulogies, if colored by a certain defensiveness about Balthus’s historical position. Other commentators, such as Linda Nochlin (interviewed on National Public Radio), could not be moved to praise, even by his demise. Speaking ill of the dead is no more popular in the art world than in the rest of our culture, but wildly mixed feelings about Balthus were reflected in his obituaries, as well as in the reviews that greeted Nicholas Fox Weber’s alternately fawning and hostile 1999 biography of the artist. Many observers seem starstruck by Balthus’s aristocratic, castle-dwelling persona, complete with literary

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