A rarely shown painting by Balthus
is this 1948 goldfish. It’s a typical, characteristic
painting for Balthus, because it combines these contradictions: on the
one hand the childlike innocent, and on the other hand the uncanny dark.
There’s this enigmatic, strange, mysterious depiction in this painting. It’s an almost magical scene with
this child behind a table, flanked by a trophy, an aquarium with a
goldfish, and in front of it this tomcat that almost looks like a monster
and focuses the viewer in an eerie way. The motive of the cat, that appears
repeatedly in the work of Balthus, doesn’t have this tender, gentle side this
time, but something uncanny, monstrous. Interestingly many almost surreal
dimensions play are role here.
Interessant ist, dass hier auch viele
fast surreale Dimensionen mitspielen. Man Actually, the child doesn’t have a
lower body, instead there’s only the head, which is depicted as if
the head was cut off. In this hand, the child holds something
undefinable: is it a candle, is it a map, is it a box? Here, too, much
remains unanswered. It’s interesting that this composition
is very much oriented towards formal equivalents: the form of the head of the child
correlates with the aquarium next to it, the almost triangular form of the cat
reappears in the patterns of the table, and then there’s this little sphere that correlates to
the circular shapes of the figures on the table. And then as
contrast, there are these rectangular elements that keep reappearing.
So we see how precise and accurate Balthus conceives his paintings. The pictures are really compositions and
ultimately Balthus is interested first and foremost in the compositional
dimension and one actually has the impression, that he is not always primarily
interested in the motive, in the subject. So this really artistic compositional
importance is very obvious especially in this painting.