Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Mountain

Artist:
Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski) (French, Paris 1908–2001 Rossinière)
Date:
1936–37
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
98 x 144 in. (248.9 x 365.8 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Purchase, Gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Nate B. Spingold and Nathan Cummings, Rogers Fund and The Alfred N. Punnett Endowment Fund, by exchange, and Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1982
Accession Number:
1982.530
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 900
Painting in his austere Paris studio, Balthus imagined and depicted in this monumental canvas an escape from the congested city to the open landscape of Niederhorn Mountain, near Beatenberg, Switzerland. A hiking party of seven explores the mountainous terrain together, yet the figures are strangely isolated from one another, a persistent characteristic of Balthus’s work. The figure’s disparate poses and activities—walking, stretching, kneeling, and sleeping—heighten their detachment and enhance the scale and remoteness of the landscape. Invoking life in summer, The Mountain is one in an abandoned series of four canvases meant to symbolize the seasons.
#1915. The Mountain
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the artist (until 1938; sold in November 1938 to Matisse); Pierre Matisse, New York (1938–at least 1973); private collection, Vaduz (by 1975–82; sold through Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York to MMA)

New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Balthus: Paintings and Drawings," March 17–April 8, 1939, no. 1 (as "La Montagne 'Summer'". The first of four panels depicting the Seasons).

New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Large Scale Modern Paintings," April 1–May 4, 1947, no catalogue (checklist no. 18; as "The Mountain [Summer]," 1937, lent by the Pierre Matisse Gallery).

New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Balthus," March 15–April 3, 1949, no. 12 (as "La Montagne," 1937).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Balthus," December 19, 1956–February 3, 1957, no. 7 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Pierre Matisse, New York).

New York. Pierre Matisse Gallery. "Balthus: Paintings 1929–1961," March 1962, no. 5 (as "La Montagne," 1937).

Cambridge, Mass. New Gallery, Hayden Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Balthus," February 10–March 2, 1964, no. 6 (as "La Montagne," 1937, lent by the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York).

Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Balthus," May 12–June 27, 1966, no. 2 (lent by Pierre Matisse).

Knokke-le-Zoute. Casino Communal. "Balthus," July–September 1966, no. 2 (lent by Pierre Matisse).

London. Tate Gallery. "Balthus," October 4–November 10, 1968, no. 6 (lent by a private collection, New York).

Marseilles. Musée Cantini. "Balthus," July–September 1973, no. 4 (as "La Montagne," 1937, lent by Pierre Matisse, New York).

Sydney. Art Gallery of New South Wales. "Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse," April 10–May 11, 1975, no. 2 (lent by a private collection, Vaduz).

Melbourne. National Gallery of Victoria. "Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse," May 28–June 22, 1975, no. 2.

New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse," August 4–September 1, 1975, no. 2.

Venice. Biennale. "Balthus," May 29–September 29, 1980, no. 2.

Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou. "Les réalismes 1919–1939," December 17, 1980–April 20, 1981, unnumbered cat. (p. 213; as "La Montagne," 1936, lent by a private collection, Geneva).

Staatliche Kunsthalle Berlin. "Realismus: Zwischen Revolution und Reaktion 1919–1939," May 16–June 28, 1981, unnumbered cat. (pl. 310; as "Der Berg [La Montagne]," 1936, lent by a private collection, Geneva).

Paris. Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne. "Balthus," November 5, 1983–January 23, 1984, no. 15.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balthus," February 29–May 13, 1984, no. 14.

Kyoto Municipal Museum. "Balthus," June 17–July 22, 1984, no. 2 (as "La Montagne [L'été]," 1937).

Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. "Balthus," May 29–August 29, 1993, unnumbered cat. (frontispiece; as "La Montagne").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Painters in Paris: 1895–1950," March 8–December 31, 2000, extended to January 14, 2001, unnumbered cat. (pp. 108–9; dated 1937).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balthus Remembered," March 27–May 27, 2001, no catalogue.

Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," September 14–November 24, 2002, no. 64.

Tokyo. Bunkamura Museum of Art. "Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," December 7, 2002–March 9, 2003, no. 64.

Cologne. Museum Ludwig. "Balthus: Aufgehobene Zeit. Gemälde and Zeichnungen 1932–1960 / Balthus: Time Suspended. Paintings and Drawings 1932–1960," August 18–November 4, 2007, no. 11.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.

Howard Devree. "A Reviewer's Notebook: American and Two French Modernists—New Group and One-Man Exhibitions." New York Times (March 26, 1939), p. 142.

Royal Cortissoz. "The Enigmatic Art of the Surrealist." New York Herald Tribune (March 26, 1939), p. E8.

Pierre-Jean Jouve. "Balthus." La Nef (September 1944), p. 144 [reprinted in Ref. Régnier 1983, p. 58].

Carlyle Burrows. "Art of the Week: A Deluge of Displays, Mainly Modern." New York Herald Tribune (April 6, 1947), p. C8.

James Thrall Soby. Balthus. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1956, pp. 5, 7, 35, no. 7, ill. p. 20, dates it 1937; notes the influence of Courbet in this composition.

Gaëtan Picon. Balthus. Exh. cat., Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Paris, 1966, pp. 14–15, 17, no. 2, dates it 1937.

Jean Clair. "Balthus ou les métempsycoses." La Nouvelle Revue Française no. 163 (July 1966) [reprinted in Ref. Régnier 1983, p. 106].

John Russell in Balthus. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery. London, 1968, pp. 13–15, 37, no. 6, ill. pp. 15, 49, dates it 1936 and notes that it was completed in Derain's studio because Balthus's studio was too small; compares it to Courbet's "Young Ladies of the Village" (1851–52; MMA 40.175).

Keith Roberts. "London." Burlington Magazine 110 (November 1968), p. 645.

John Russell in Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. New York, 1975, pp. 192–93, 262, no. 2, ill., dates it 1937.

Jean Leymarie. Balthus. Geneva, 1978, colorpl. 7, dates it 1935–37; locates it in a private collection.

Jean Leymarie in Balthus. Venice, 1980, pp. 8–9, 87, colorpls. 4–7 (overall and details), dates it 1937.

Jean Leymarie in La Biennale di Venezia. Section of Visual Arts: General Catalogue. Exh. cat., Biennale. Venice, 1980, pp. 214–15, no. 2, ill., dates it 1937.

Timothy Hyman. "Balthus: A Puppet Master." London Magazine 20 (August–September 1980), pp. 46, 61.

Jean Leymarie. Balthus. 2nd enl. ed. (1st ed., 1979). New York, 1982, pp. 31, 34, 36, 151, ill. pp. 32–33 (color), 146, dates it 1935–37, adding that it was reworked in 1939; locates it in a private collection; identifies the setting as the Niederhorn mountain in the Bernese Oberland, where Balthus had spent childhood summers in the village of Beatenberg; notes that the kneeling male figure is the "spectral portrait" of a deceased childhood friend and the small figure climbing the slope in the right background is the artist himself; compares the pose of the sleeping girl to Poussin's "Echo and Narcissus" (ca. 1627; Musée du Louvre, Paris).

Lisa M. Messinger. "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1982–1983. New York, 1983, p. 60, ill. (color), dates it 1935–37.

Stanislas Klossowski de Rola. Balthus. London, 1983, p. 94, colorpls. 10, 11 (overall and detail), dates it 1935–37; locates it still in a private collection.

Gérard Régnier, ed. Balthus. Exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne. Paris, 1983, p. 138, no. 15, ill. pp. 139 (color), 346, no. 39, dates it 1937; calls it "La Montagne (L'Été)" in the catalogue of the artist's oeuvre.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 1983, p. 413, no. 7, ill. (color).

Marc Le Bot in Balthus. Ed. Gérard Régnier. Exh. cat., Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne. Paris, 1983, p. 301, dates it 1935–39.

Grace Glueck. "The Met Makes Room for the 20th Century." New York Times (September 18, 1983), pp. H27, H30, ill.

Michael Brenson. "De Montebello Pursues a 'Universal Museum'." New York Times (January 1, 1983), p. 7.

James Lord. "Balthus: The Curious Case of the Count de Rola." New Criterion 2 (December 1983), p. 16, identifes the standing woman with raised arms in this picture as Antoinette de Watteville, whom Balthus married in 1937.

Michael Peppiatt. "Balthus, mythes de la vie ordinaire." Connaissance des arts no. 381 (November 1983), pp.101–2, ill. (color detail), dates it 1935–37 in the text and 1936 in the caption.

Wolfgang Sauré. "Pariser Ausstellungen." Das Kunstwerk 37 (April 1984), p. 45.

Jacques Paul Dauriac. "Paris, Balthus." Pantheon 42 (April/May/June 1984), p. 186.

Jean Clair. Metamorphosen des Eros. Essay über Balthus. Munich, 1984, p. 87, fig. 66, dates it 1935–37 and locates it still in a private collection.

John Russell. "Art: For Balthus, a Major Met Show." New York Times (March 2, 1984), p. C21.

John Dorsey. "Will Balthus be a Page or a Footnote in Art History?" Sun (March 16, 1984), p. C1.

Jed Perl. "Balthus in New York." New Criterion 2 (May 1984), p. 12.

Sabine Rewald. Balthus. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 23, 82, no. 14, fig. 25 (detail), ill. pp. 82–83 (color), dates it 1937; notes a similarity between the face of the kneeling figure in this picture and that of a Swiss peasant in Joseph Reinhardt's "Kanton Freiburg. Christen Heumann and His Young Sister" (1795; Historisches Museum, Bern), which Balthus had copied in 1932; mentions Courbet's "The Stonebreakers" (1850) as inspiration for the posture of the mountain guide.

William S. Lieberman. 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 1, Painting: 1905–1945. New York, 1986, pp. 6, 52–53, 63, ill. (color, overall and detail), dates it 1937.

Kay Larson. "The Met Goes Modern: Bill Lieberman's Brave New Wing." New York Magazine 19 (December 15, 1986), p. 46.

Gary Tinterow et al. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 8, Modern Europe. New York, 1987, pp. 148–49, colorpl. 126, date it 1937.

Sabine Rewald. "Balthus: Erotik Pür." Pan no. 11 (1990), pp. 33, 36, ill. (color).

Jean Leymarie. Balthus. Rev. enl. ed. (1st ed., 1979). New York, 1990, unpaginated, colorpl. 7, dates it 1935–37.

Yves Bonnefoy. L'Improbable et autres essais. Rev. ed. (1st ed., 1959). Paris, 1992, pp. 49–50.

Barbara Burn, ed. Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 303, ill. (color), dates it 1937.

Jörg Zutter in Balthus. Ed. Jörg Zutter. Exh. cat., Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. Geneva, 1993, pp. 11–13, 16, 21, 24, ill. (color) frontispiece, front and back covers, dates it 1937.

Jean Starobinski in Balthus. Ed. Jörg Zutter. Exh. cat., Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. Geneva, 1993, p. 71.

Jed Perl. "Balthus Presents Balthus." New Criterion 12 (October 1993), p. 18.

Giles Auty. "Potent Pubescents." Spectator 271 (August 14, 1993), p. 31.

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 439, no. 15, ill. (color).

Richard Covington. "Balthus." Art and Antiques 17 (November 1994), p. 72, ill. pp. 74–75 (color), dates it 1935–37.

Romy Golan. Modernity and Nostalgia: Art and Politics in France Between the Wars. New Haven, 1995, pp. 125–28, fig. 138 (color).

Sabine Rewald in "Recent Acquisitions. A Selection: 1995–1996." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Fall 1996), p. 57.

Claude Roy. Balthus. [Paris], 1996, pp. 17, 133–34, 177, ill. p. 247 (color), calls it "La Montagne (L'Été)" and dates it 1937.

Jean Leymarie in Balthus. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid, 1996, p. 18.

Antoni Tàpies in Balthus. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid, 1996, p. 54, dates it 1935–37.

Merlin James. "Book Reviews: 'Modernity and Nostalgia: Art and Politics in France Between the Wars.' By Romy Golan." Burlington Magazine 138 (December 1996), p. 834.

Stanislas Klossowski de Rola. Balthus. New York, 1996, colorpls. 15, 16 (overall and detail), dates it 1935–37.

Sabine Rewald. "Balthus's Magic Mountain." Burlington Magazine 139 (September 1997), pp. 622, 625–28, figs. 54 (color overall), 57, 63 (details), states that according to the artist, he conceived this picture in 1935, and based both it and “Summertime” (MMA 1996.176) on a now lost watercolor; identifies the model for the sleeping figure as Sheila Pickering, a British friend of Balthus’s.

Michael Kimmelman. Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere. New York, 1998, p. 95.

Virginie Monnier in Virginie Monnier and Jean Clair. Balthus: Catalogue Raisonné of the Complete Works. Paris, 1999, pp. 132–33, no. P102, ill., calls it "La Montagne (L'Été)" and dates it 1937.

Jean Clair in Virginie Monnier and Jean Clair. Balthus: Catalogue Raisonné of the Complete Works. Paris, 1999, pp. 51–52, ill. (color), calls it "The Mountain (The Summer)".

Bernard Blistène. "L'Histoire de l'art au XXe siècle.9e épisode: Classicismes et réalismes. 'Entre ordre et modèles'." Beaux Arts Magazine no. 178 (March 1999), p. 105, ill. (color), calls it "La Montagne (l'été)" and dates it 1936.

Grace Glueck. "When One City Was the Heart of Art's Youth." New York Times (March 10, 2000), p. E39, ill.

William S. Lieberman. "Les Peintres de Paris à New York." Connaissance des arts no. 578 (December 2000), p. 130.

Philip Rylands. "Venice: Balthus." Burlington Magazine 143 (December 2001), p. 783.

John Russell. "Balthus, Painter Whose Suggestive Figures Caused a Stir, Is Dead at 92." New York Times (February 19, 2001), p. B8, ill.

William S. Lieberman in Picasso and the School of Paris: Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. [Tokyo], 2002, pp. 119–20, 128–29, 166, no. 64, ill. (color), dates it 1937.

Sabine Rewald. "Balthus's Mountain Guide Revisited." Metropolitan Museum Journal 37 (2002), pp. 315–19, figs. 1–4 (overall and details), cites a 1998 letter written by Balthus identifying the model for the kneeling figure in this picture as Fritz Grossniklaus, an acquaintance of the artist from his childhood summers in Beatenberg; surmises that Balthus based this likeness on drawings made during his last visit to Beatenberg in 1927, noting that when he executed the painting he did not know that Grossniklaus had died in 1928 [see Ref. Leymarie 1982]; suggests a connection with Pierre Jean Jouve's novella "Dans les années profondes," with the two female figures as allusions to "Jouve's heroine who dies and is reborn in art" and the mountain guide as an alter ego for the artist.

Sabine Rewald. Balthus: Time Suspended. Paintings and Drawings 1932–1960. Exh. cat., Museum Ludwig, Cologne. Munich, 2007, pp. 29, 56, 62–65, 153, 158, no. 11, ill. (color).

Merlin James. "Balthus. Cologne." Burlington Magazine 149 (November 2007), p. 801.

Jean Clair in Balthus: 100e anniversaire. Ed. Jean Clair and Dominique Radrizzani. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2008, p. 16, fig. 5, calls it "La Montagne (L'Eté)" and dates it 1937.

Jean Starobinski in Balthus: 100e anniversaire. Ed. Jean Clair and Dominique Radrizzani. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2008, p. 28.

Manuel Jover. "Étude d'une oeuvre: 'La Montagne' de Balthus." Connaissance des arts no. 662 (July–August 2008), pp. 128–32, ill. (color, overall and details).

Gary Tinterow. "The Modern Era." Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 130, fig. 146 (color).

Sabine Rewald. The American Matisse: The Dealer, His Artists, His Collection. The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection. New York, 2009, p. 23 n. 46.

Ken Johnson. "Perfect Poise, Pulled From Jaws of Distortion." New York Times (December 31, 2010), p. C26.

Jed Perl. "What Balthus Can Tell Us About Our Summer of Disquietude." New Republic (August 17, 2011), ill. (color detail).

Camille Viéville. Balthus et le portrait. Paris, 2011, pp. 84, 180, fig. 63 (color), calls it "La Montagne (L'Éte)" and dates it 1936.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 419, ill. (color).

Sabine Rewald. Balthus: Cats and Girls. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2013, p. 159 nn. 14, 26.

Roberta Smith. "Infatuations, Female and Feline." New York Times (September 27, 2013), p. C25.



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