Never before translated into English, Rainer Maria Rilke’s fascinating Letters to a Young Painter, written toward the end of his life between 1920 and 1926, is a surprising companion to his infamous Letters to a Young Poet, earlier correspondence from 1902 to 1908. While the latter has become a global phenomenon, with millions of copies sold in many different languages, the present volume has been largely overlooked.
In these eight intimate letters written to a teenage Balthus—who would go on to become one of the leading artists of his generation—Rilke describes the challenges he faced, while opening the door for the young painter to take himself and his work seriously. Rilke’s constant warmth, his ability to sense in advance his correspondent’s difficulties and propose solutions to them, and his sensitivity as a person and an artist come across in these charming and honest letters.
Writing during his aged years, this volume paints a picture of the venerable poet as he faced his mortality, through the perspective of hindsight, and continued to embrace his openness towards other creative individuals. With an introduction by Rachel Corbett, author of You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin (2016), this book is a must-have for Rilke’s admirers, young and old, and all aspiring artists.