Controversial art

Petition calls for prestigious art museum to remove 1938 painting that ‘sexualizes’ young girl

'Thérèse Dreaming' (1938) by the painter known as Balthus.

A recently launched petition is demanding that the Metropolitan Museum of Art remove a Balthus painting, which, the petition says, “depicts a young girl in a sexually suggestive pose.”

The 1938 painting, Thérèse Dreaming, shows a prepubescent girl reclining in a chair with her arms folded over her head. Her leg is raised, and her undergarments are visible. It is one of 10 works that Balthus, the French artist born as Balthasar Klossowski, painted that depict Thérèse Blanchard, the daughter of a restaurant worker who was 11 years old when Balthus met her.

“Balthus had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls and this painting is undeniably romanticizing the sexualization of a child,” the petition states. “Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children.”

Thérèse Dreaming (1938) by the painter known as Balthus.

To date, the petition has been signed by nearly 8,000 people.

Questions have long surrounded Balthus’ preoccupation with young girls. “Balthus always denied any hint of paedophilia,” Jason Farago wrote in a 2013 Guardian review of a Met exhibition devoted to artist’s work. “But get real: these are erotic images of children.”

A representative for the Met has said that the museum will not take down Thérèse Dreaming.  “[Our] mission is to collect, study, conserve, and present significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge, and ideas,” spokesperson Kenneth Weine said, according to the New York Post. “Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present.”

Read more at The New York Post.


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EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is independent of and separate from any views of The New York Times.