Setsuko Klossowska de Rola

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Setsuko Klossowska de Rola (born 1943) is a Japanese painter. She has been in charge of the Villa Medici in Rome, has exhibited her work internationally, and is also a writer. She became UNESCO's Artist For Peace in 2005. She is the widow of the French painter, Balthus, and is honorary president of the Balthus Foundation.[1]


Setsuko was born, Setsuko Ideta, in Tokyo in 1943. She graduated from Tokyo Morimura Gakuen High School in 1961 and entered the department of French language at Sophia University in Tokyo.[1] As a university student, she met the painter Balthus who was visiting Japan for the first time in 1962. They got married in 1967. Setsuko assisted Balthus, acting as the headmistress of Villa Medici, where he presided as director of the French Academy in Rome. In 1968, she gave birth to a son, Fumio, who died aged two years and six months. In 1973, a daughter, Harumi, was born.[2] In 1977, Setsuko and Balthus left the French Academy and moved to Le Grand Chalet in Rossinière, Switzerland. Balthus died in 2001.


Setsuko made rapid progress as a painter. Her exhibitions were held at:

In 1988 her collection entitled Setsuko was published by Librairie Seguier. In 1991, she painted a wine label for the prestigious Bordeaux Mouton Rothschild. In 1994, upon request by Limited Edition of New York, she produced illustrations for a limited grand edition of Koyahijiri (Saint of Mt. Koya, a work by Kyōka Izumi). The illustrations were exhibited in New York City, Paris and Rome. At Sotheby's in Zurich in 1999, a Balthus and Setsuko Klossowski de Rola exhibition was held entitled Sotheby's Kingdom of the Cats.

In the same year, an exhibition entitled Setsuko & Harumi was held at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. In 2002, when the Balthus Foundation was established, Setsuko was designated as its honorary president, and she was also Cultural Patron of the 2002 Venice Congress the same year.[1] In 2005, she became UNESCO's Artist For Peace.[1][3] In 2005 and 2006, Mainichi Newspaper and Asahi Shimbun sponsored her exhibition entitled Setsuko-no-kurashi Wa-no-kokoro (Spirit of Japan, Setsuko's Life) in Kumamoto, Yokohama and Tokyo. In 2010, she exhibited at Galerie Yoshii in Paris in January, and in Tokyo in February. She appeared as a guest in an Asahi TV talk show Tetsuko's Room. Other TV appearances include Tanoshii Engei (Enjoy Gardening) by NHK's Education Channel and Grand Chalet by Swiss TV.


Setsuko's written work includes:

  • Miru-bi, Kiku-bi, Omou-bi (Beauty as vision, sound and thought) by Shodensha and later recorded in Asahi Bunko;
  • Grand Chalet Yume-no-toki (Grand Chalet Remains of a dream) by Sekaibunkasha
  • Balthus' yuga-na-seikatsu (Balthus' elegant life) and Wa-to yorusou kurashi (Life with Wa) both by Shincho-sha
  • Wa wo tsukuru bi (Beauty that makes Wa) by Shodensha
  • Kimono-wo matou bi (Beauty of wearing kimono) by Fusosha
  • Grand Chalet-no tezukuri kurashi (Grand Chalet a hand-made life) by Sekaibunkasha
  • Meguriau-hana, shiki. Soshite kurashi (Flowers encountered, four seasons and life style) by Kadokawa Magazines


  1. ^ a b c d Countess Setsuko Klossowska de Rola designated Artist for Peace UNESCO. Retrieved: 2011-06-01.
  2. ^ Review of Balthus: a biography New York Times, 1999.
  3. ^ Countess Setsuko Klossowska de Rola named UNESCO Artist for Peace Permanent Delegation of Japan to UNESCO, 2005-01-07.