Education: Moving in 1933 into his first Paris studio at the Rue de Furstemberg and later another at the Cour de Rohan, Balthus showed no interest in modernist styles such as Cubism. His paintings often depicted pubescent young girls in erotic and voyeuristic poses.
In 1940, with the invasion of France by German forces, Balthus fled with his wife Antoinette to Savoy to a farm in Champrovent near Aix-les-Bains , where he began work on two major paintings: Landscape near Champrovent (1942–1945) and The Living Room (1942). In 1942, he escaped from Nazi France to Switzerland, first to Bern and in 1945 to Geneva. Balthus returned to France in 1946 and a year later traveled with Andre Masson to Southern France, meeting figures such as Picasso and Jacques Lacan, who eventually became a collector of his work. Three years later he moved into the Chateau de Chassy in the Morvan, living with his niece Frédérique Tison and finishing his large-scale masterpieces La Chambre (The Room 1952, possibly influenced by Pierre Klossowski’s novels) and Le Passage du Commerce Saint-André (1954).
As international fame grew with exhibitions in the gallery of Pierre Matisse (1938) and the Museum of Modern Art (1956) in New York City, he cultivated the image of himself as an enigma.
In 1977 he moved to Rossiniere, Switzerland. That he had a second, Japanese wife Setsuko Ideta whom he married in 1967 and was thirty-five years his junior, simply added to the air of mystery around him (he met her in Japan, during a diplomatic mission also initiated by Malraux). A son, Fumio, was born in 1968 but died two years later.
Balthus was one of the few living artists to be represented in the Louvre, when his painting The Children (1937) was acquired from the private collection of Pablo Picasso.