Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'Because Cathy Taught Him What She Learnt', 2010. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, © Hisaji Hara.

Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'The Room', 2009. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, © Hisaji Hara.

Hisaji Hara's Photo Studies of Balthus' Images of 'Erotic Innocence'

Balthus, Katia reading (Katia Lisant), 1974, tempera on canvas, 180 x 210 cm, Private collection.

Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'Katia Reading', 2009. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, © Hisaji Hara.

Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'The King of Cats' (self-portrait), 2009. Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, © Hisaji Hara.


Michael Hoppen Gallery
3 Jubilee Place
+ 44 (0)20 7352 3649
Hisaji Hara
February 24-March 31

In his series of monochrome portrait studies, Hisaji Hara has modelled his photographic compositions on paintings by Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola(1908-2001), a revered and controversial 20th century artist.

In the style of Balthus, Hara creates scenes with a combination of innocence and eroticism. The models have unselfconscious attitudes of playful children and yet their postures invite the eye to see them as sexual young women. Moreover, in reinventing the images, Hisaji Hara has dressed his subjects in school uniform, emphasizing the transitional period between childhood and adulthood. We feel as quiet, almost intrusive voyeurs to moments of youthful innocence.

Hisaji Hara is technically brilliant and meticulous in his preparation for each image. The stage-set for these photographs is a derelict building of a privately run medical clinic used in the 1940s and 1950s. In order to emulate the depth and eerie atmosphere in Balthus’ paintings, Hara employs techniques that transcend photographic craft alone in order to mimic the skewed perspective of Balthus’ work, including smoke machines, specially commissioned furniture and unseen additions to his subjects’ costumes to create an angularity to their dress. Hara’s camera skills are evident in the use of multiple exposures and focuses whilst partially blocking the lens to create unusual depths of field which add to the mystery of the scenes.

Balthus (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola [February 29, 1908, Paris-February 18, 2001, Rossinière, Switzerland]), was an esteemed and controversial Polish-French modern artist. He rejected the usual conventions of the art world and insisted his paintings should be seen and not read about, and he resisted attempts made to build a biographical profile. A telegram sent to the Tate Gallery as it prepared for a 1968 retrospective of his works read: "No biographical details. Begin: Balthus is a painter of whom nothing is known. Now let us look at the pictures. Regards. B."

Balthus was the brother of Pierre Klossowski (August 9, 1905-August 12, 2001), a French writer, translator and artist.

Hisaji Hara, A Study of 'Portrait of Therese', 2009, Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, © Hisaji Hara.

Balthus, Portrait de Therese, 1939, Lithograph.

Balthus, Cathy, 1935, Lithograph.

Balthus, The Room, c.1953, oil on canvas, 335 x 270.5 cm, Private Collection.