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(b Paris, 29 Feb. 1908; d Rossinière, Switzerland, 18 Feb. 2001).

French painter (and occasional stage designer), the son of cultured Polish parents, both of whom painted. He had no formal training but was encouraged by the family friends Derain (of whom Balthus painted a memorable portrait (1936, MoMA, New York) and Bonnard. His work was dominated by erotic imagery, his favourite theme being the adolescent girl awakening to sexual consciousness; characteristically these girls are shown languidly sprawled or kneeling awkwardly over books in claustrophobic interiors that have a suggestion of Surrealist oddness (The Living Room, 1941–3, Minneapolis Inst. of Arts). From 1961 to 1977 he was director of the French Academy in Rome, but otherwise he spent most of his life living in seclusion in France or Switzerland. He worked slowly and his output was small, but his highly distinctive images made him internationally famous, indeed something of a cult figure. His work was generally warmly received by critics as well as the public (although some have accused him of having a Lolita complex) and he is widely regarded as one of the 20th century's leading upholders of the great tradition of figure painting.

Subjects: Art.

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