Balthasar Klossowski de Rola was born in Paris in 1908. Known as Balthus he was an esteemed but controversial Polish/French modern artist. He came from a highly cultivated family; his father a noted art historian and his mother were part of the cultural elite in Paris. He painted from the age of 16 but showed little interest in modernist styles preferring figurative painting.

He often painted pubescent girls in private moments both innocent and provocative; The Guitar Lesson was one of his more notorious works and caused controversy due to its sexual nature. His work was admired by writers and fellow painters, especially by Andre Breton and Pablo Picasso and his circle of friends in Paris included well-known novelists, the photogrpaher Man Ray and the painters Andre Derain, Joan Miro and Alberto Giacometti.

He had his frst one man show in 1934 at the Galerie Pierre in Paris. International fame grew with exhibitions in the gallery Pierre Matisse in 1938 and the Museum of Modern Art in New York 1956. Balthus's style is primarily classical, drawing inspiration from Renaissance and pre-Renaissance painters as well as the surrealists, however he painted the figure at a time when figurative art was largely overlooked and as a result he is widely regarded as an important 20th century artist.

He died in 2002 at the age of 93.