Resnick, Artaud, Balthus

The September 11 issue of Art in America has an article by David Reed where he mentions that the first time he saw Resnick he didn’t know who the painter was and his first thought was that he was the ghost of Antonin Artaud, given Resnick’s resemblance to Artaud in photographs.

Reed writes this:

During one of his visits to my studio in Roswell, I told Milton how, on that first day in the elevator, he had reminded me of Artaud. He replied that he wasn’t surprised. He had also been obsessed with Artaud and, while a GI in Paris after the war he had seen him several times. One day he watched Artaud being photographed and other days observed him drawing in cafés. One he had seen him working diligently on a beautiful drawing of a dog. But Artaud could not get the tail right. Drawing it over and over, he violently smashed the pencil into the paper until his attendant gently led him away. Milton said that he had been so impressed by Artaud that he even tried to imitate his walk.

Balthus and Artaud bore a striking resemblance. They worked together for a year on Artaud’s play at the Theatre of Cruelty, La Cenci, Balthus doing the stage design and costumes. The play was performed in 1935, the company’s sold production ending in critical and financial failure. Artaud moved to Mexico afterwards.

The perceptive critic Pierre Jean Jouve wrote “This theater is not made to please. Artaud constantly plays against the house and wins. The spectator is constantly upset, and sometimes hurt by the sharpest tension.”

It brings to mind Wittgenstein’s quote: I don’t know why we are here but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.

Artaud returned from Mexico to France in 1937 and certified mad. His health and mind were broken through institutionalization and electric shock treatment over six years. When Resnick saw him Artaud was in a state of dementia. He died soon after in 1948.

Milton Resnick


Antonin Artaud, still from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928

About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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