Balthus – ( Rhythmic Integration and Motifs)

Balthus - The Bouquet of Roses on the Window - 1958 - 53 x 51 in - oil on canvas

Balthus shows us how elegant a very popular subject can be.  It’s not the subject, but rather his interpretation and knowledge of composition that makes the painting great.  In this posting I will focus on how he supports, or as I prefer, how he integrates the flowers with the fields and trees behind.

Lets begin with the tree to the right and how the circular shapes in the foliage harmonize with the flowers and also lead your eye towards the bouquet.  Another great relationship is how the top shape in the tree echoes the shape of the largest rose.   Balthus rhythmically uses a circular motif, which is very sensitive and sophisticated.  Also, can you feel your eye being carried upwards from the lower part of the rose through the smaller rose then connecting to the tree through the leaf?   A great example of how poetic integration can be.
I should mention another very sensitive integration.  There is a small “S” like vertical line in the field at the upper right.  I hope you can feel how the line rhythmically integrates with the delicate tree at the bottom right.  It is meant to be felt, even subconsciously, more than seen.

Now to the left of the flowers where the rhythmic movement of the foreground trees integrate beautifully with the bouquet.  I am taken with how the small rose bud flows into the large tree and how the leaf just below the bud integrates with movements in the field, especially the curved one below the tree which harmonizes beautifully with the curve in the leaf.

I have only touched on a very few of many sophisticated considerations in this painting and I hope you will try to discover more of them.  One I would like to mention is how Balthus emphasized the shading in the shutter to connect to the distant hill, the green field as well as the hedge.  Everything is assessed with composition in mind.  I also love the triangle motif harmonizing the fields with the windowsill.  His thoroughness is masterful!

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