Hero and Leandro 1984 (Apainting in Four Parts) Part I, 1984 oil, house paint, paint stick on canvas 66 x 78 7/8 in. (167.6 x 200 cm) Framed caption: ‘he’s gone | up bubbles | all his amorous breadth’ Courtesy of Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection Houston
Cy Twombly, renowned for his large scale canvases with childlike scribbles, passed away Tuesday this week in hospital in Rome, at the age of 83.
As one of the most prominent American artists in the post war era, Twombly was an instrumental figure in pushing painting beyond the confines of Abstract Expressionism, along with Jasper Jones, Robert Rauschenberg and Ellsworth Kelly.
In 1952, Twombly travelled to Rome with Rauschenberg. While the latter was busy lurking around the city in search of materials for his “Boxes and Personal Fetishes”, Twombly trailed along looking at the ancient public walls, transfixed by the strangely poetic effect of their multi-layered signs, symbols, Latin inscriptions, hieroglyphics and common grafitti. This experience deeply influenced his own graphic and painterly methods, which were described by Frank O’Hara as “drawn, scratched and crayoned over and under the surface with as much attention to aesthetic tremors as to artistic excitement”.
Later in 1957, Twombly wrote:
“To paint involves a certain crisis, or at least a crucial moment of sensation or release, and by crisis it should by no means be limited to a morbid state, but could just as well be one ecstatic impulse”
Untitled 1970 Distemper and chalk on canvas 70.5 x 100 cm. Courtesy of Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection Houston
At a time when the attention of the art world shifted from Europe to New York, Twombly took the opposite route and moved to Italy, which became his home away from home. The late 1950s saw Twombly remove himself from a center stage position, avoiding public enquiry especially from critics who constantly disapproved of his work. It was only in concurrence with the neo-Expressionist styles of the 1980’s that Twombly’s scribbles re-emerged as inspirational to artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, and more. His status never dwindled since, maturing as one of the most sought after artists in the world. Both the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Menil Collection in Houston host dedicated galleries to Twombly’s work.
Larry Gagosian whom his gallery represents the artist issued the statement:
“The art world has lost a true genius and a completely original talent, and for those fortunate enough to have known him, a great human being. We will not soon see a talent of such amazing scope and intensity. Even though Cy might have been regarded as reclusive, he didn’t retreat to an ivory tower. He was happy to remain connected and live in the present.”
Each time Gagosian Gallery launched a new space in Europe, Cy Twombly inaugurated its openings. During his interview with Financial Times last year, Gagosian said: “One of the greatest joy of my life has been working with Cy”
Untitles I (Bacchus) 2005 Acrylic on canvas 317.5 x 417.8 Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery
One of the most recent and momentous Twombly exhibitions included his 2008 “Cycles and Seasons” solo show at Tate Modern, featuring “Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons)” (1993–94). Another accolade was last year’s invitation to paint the ceiling of the Salle des Bronzes at the Louvre in Paris, a rare honor awarded only previously to Georges Braque in the 1950s.
Dulwich Picture Gallery in London has just opened its exhibition “Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters”, ongoing through 25 September 2011.
Cy twombly and his painting on the ceiling of Salle des Bronze at Louvre, Paris. Credit: Christophe Ena/Associated Press
Cy Twombly (1928– 2011)