Balthus-Balthazar Klossowski, “Blanchard Children”, 1937

At a time of an ever growing mindless neo-conservatism we must help ourselves to understand this monstrous phenomenon by going back to our pre-democratic reflexes. Indeed, what is the difference between puritanism and neo-puritanism? Before democracy the religious norms and ideologies were culturally despotic – to morally regulate and dictate every aspect of human relations and conduct with outmost violence towards people with the “you shall” and “you shall not”. And that’s how people have come to judge life based on their sincere beliefs and opinions constructed according to habitual teachings, officially accepted ideas passed down from traditional dogmas. Neo-puritanism, on the other side, judges life and other people according to how this or that helps or doesn’t – the very sacred neo-puritan activities which are connected with or supported by money- and profit-making, growing private wealth in general, accumulation of and arming its believers with more and more high-tech weapons and stirring larger segments of the population to hate and eliminate those who not “like us with our standards”.

Balthus’ “Blanchard Children” is a typical puritan representation of children. The girl is certainly a “good girl” – look how scrupulously she is writing or drawing in her notebook – she observes her own work, but has simultaneously turned her face toward the adults, as if, to show how proud she is about her drawing. She wants to be praised by the elders and to be “appreciated and rewarded”. The boy, her brother, is at the desk seemingly bored. He may not be “a bad boy”, but it is not good to indulge oneself in doing nothing because then one will be in danger of having an “open mind for self-indulgence and vain thoughts, desires and activities”.

It’s noticeable that the boy’s eyes are opened, as if, he is looking into some faraway places to find some exciting details of what is in front of him, while the girl’s eyes are… closed – may be, she doesn’t want to show that she is looking for encouraging gaze of adults and will shortly go back to the “magic” of the paper to reinforce her success in front of the authorities. Of course, the boy’s gaze is not too curious, it’s rather passive or more exactly – inertias or lost or “not even found”.

Balthus-Balthazar Klossowski, “The Living Room”, 1942

The second painting by Balthus is much more versatile and in a substantial sense very “Balthusian”. It is a work that semantically “teases” the neo-puritanical taste. The girl is probably resting on the sofa after playing the violin – something like a violin case is lying on her right thigh. The girl being tired, probably fell asleep. Her brother is on the floor reading a book and helps himself not only with his hand but with his elbow. The famous almost permanent attribute of Balthus’ paintings – the presence of a feline is here – as if it is observing the boy’s effort to read and is also looking towards the viewers either with a didactic or just a humorous expression on its “face”. Of course, the anti-neo-puritanical interpretation of the girl sleeping and boy’s posture can be also mentioned here, if to underline Balthus’ hints and allusions about the difference between male and female genders. Neo-purists hate it when children and adults waste life on passive pleasure, but children love to waste it not for the sake of wasting it, of course, but exactly because of wasting it for using it. But adults prefer kids to belong to official entertainment and toys. Possession of new toys for children is a condemnation in the logic of their rivalry. How many fights, “wars” break out between kids and how much money must parents waste? The disastrous availability of electronic gadgets and toys are training and teaching children how to possess more than their friends have. Today kids are learning at a younger and younger age how to shoot and in perspective – how to fight and even kill. More and more kids are turned to learning how to operate with bullets and shooting.

Today for parents and their children all pleasure is supposed to be invested in accumulating things, build personal wealth, fitness, muscle power and participation in despotic ideology of economic plenitude. Parents hate the fact that children instead of preparing themselves for future career, business achievements and success or participation in competitive activities and militaristic type of video-games can still search for bodily pleasures – and they try to distract them through sports and athletic exercises. Some parents even love the idea of child labor as a means of discipline, thinking that hard work teaching them responsibility. Such parents are less humane and democratic than Balthus’ cat in his painting “The Living Room”.

The pictures below are incompatible with Balthus’ paintings above. In these photos adults and their children learn that the “reality” of satisfying their life comes from killing wild animals. Save us and our children with this kind of prowess.

They feel stronger than a lion

She feels more beautiful than horns

They have bigger teeth than even the King of the animals

Grateful to his parents – he is a heroic monkey killer