Like a Prayer

The Naked Ambition of Balthus

Where there's smoke: Balthus in repose
photo: H. Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos/Harpercollins
Where there's smoke: Balthus in repose


Vanished Splendors, a Memoir
By Balthus, as told to Alain Vircondelet
Translated by Benjamin Ivry
Ecco, 237 pp., $29.95
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Such ugliness, though, never rears its head in Vanished Splendors. Through some combination of great talent and good fortune, Balthus devoted a long life not to curbing but to cultivating his eccentricities, and he evidently managed to do so up till the very end. He romanticizes even his stubbornness, calling himself childlike. Make that childish.

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