Balthus was born in Paris, the son of two Polish painters. He spent the years of the First World War in Berlin and Geneva, before returning to Paris in 1924. Balthus had no formal artistic training but taught himself by copying paintings in the Louvre and in Italy. His work owes as much to Italian Renaissance painting as to contemporary French art. His paintings often feature pubescent girls in suggestive poses: vulnerable but at the same time apparently conscious of their sexual power. This overt eroticism relates to Surrealism, though Balthus was never part of the official group.