Painting at New York museum sparks ‘voyeurism’ complaint

Metropolitan Museum of Art refuses to remove display of Balthus’s ‘Thérèse Dreaming’

The 1938 painting entitled ‘Thérèse Dreaming’ by French-Polish artist known as Balthus at New York’s Met museum on December 5th. More than 9,000 people have signed a petition demanding the museum remove the painting. Photograph: Thomas Urbain/AFP/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has refused to remove a controversial painting by the French painter known as Balthus from public display.

The painting, Thérèse Dreaming (1938), depicts a young girl in a suggestive pose that leaves her underwear visible.

An online petition containing more than 8,000 signatures on Monday urged the museum to rethink its decision to include the painting in its offerings.

“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 romanticising voyeurism and the objectification of children,” it reads.


In reference to the museum's decision, the Met's chief communications officer, Ken Weine, said: "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 and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression."

The petition's author, Mia Merrill, suggested that the painting be replaced by a painting by a female painter from the same time period as Balthus. Ms Merrill also insisted she was not trying to encourage censorship.

“But the blatant objectification and sexualisation of a child is where I draw the line,” Ms Merrill on Friday.

Thérèse Dreaming is not the only painting by Balthus, born Balthasar Klossowski, that portrays girls and adolescents in a controversial manner.

Girl with Cat, which is on view at the Art Institute of Chicago, uses the same subject and pose as Thérèse Dreaming while his painting Young Girl in a White Shirt shows a teenager with her breasts exposed.

Ms Merrill said that she was not creating petitions to remove any other paintings by Balthus nor was she planning, at the moment, to protest any other works. – New York Times