To my mind, one does not put oneself in place of the past; one only adds a new link.
Cy Twombly (1928–2011) developed a gestural vocabulary in which each line and color is infused with energy, spirituality, and meaning. Emerging as a prominent figure in the mid-1950s following extensive travels throughout Europe and North Africa, he produced works that are simultaneously personal and mythological, allowing narrative, language, and inner visions to erupt from his intimate, abstract notations.
Twombly was born in 1928 in Lexington, Virginia, and studied art in Boston and New York, then at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in the early 1950s. Although he was a contemporary of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, his work soon digressed from the aims of American postwar abstraction. While prevailing tendencies of the period, such as Pop art, sought to abandon historical narratives altogether, Twombly directed his focus toward ancient, classical, and modern poetic traditions. In the late 1950s he moved to Italy, where he produced colorful, diagrammatic works, such as Ode to Psyche (1960), that feature erotic allusions and sly jokes while maintaining an abstract charge. Shortly thereafter the sebaceous, bright colors of these works gave way to the more austere grays and blues of the “blackboard” paintings, in which terse, white scrawls and loops recall the powdery effects of chalk on a blackboard. As Twombly continued to work in various locations over the following decades—including Rome, Lexington, and his final residence, in Gaeta, Italy—places, landscapes, and natural forms came to figure prominently in his drawings, collages, photographs, and watercolors.
For Twombly, the poetic and the rational were not mutually exclusive. Collage, which engaged him briefly in 1959, then began to appear more regularly in 1971, allies Twombly to the Dadaists and their descendants, such as Rauschenberg and Johns. Visual information from everyday life—travel postcards, reproductions of paintings, scientific illustrations, personal drawings, and more—entered his work as a way to explore the potential of both structure and meaning.
From his student days on, Twombly also captured his daily life in photographs. He recorded the verdant landscapes of Virginia and the coasts of Italy; close-up details of ancient buildings and sculptures; studio interiors; and still lifes of objects and flowers. Beginning in the early 1990s, he used specialized copiers to enlarge his Polaroid images on matte paper, resulting in subtle distortions that approximate the timeless qualities of his paintings and sculptures.
In 1995 the Cy Twombly Gallery opened across the street from the Menil Collection in Houston. A collaboration between the Menil, Dia Foundation, and Twombly himself, the gallery serves as a permanent home for a number of important works made between 1953 and 2004. Included is the series of paintings Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair (1985), which features floral forms in deep reds, pinks, and purples, with quotations from Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, and Giacomo Leopardi. In 2010 Twombly was selected to install a permanent work at the Louvre: a painted ceiling for the Salle des Bronzes. The Ceiling spans 3,750 square feet and pays homage to the greatest Hellenic sculptors, from Phidias to Praxiteles, each of their names inscribed over an immense blue sky populated by floating, cosmic orbs.
In Beauty it is finished: Drawings 1951–2008
March 8–April 25, 2018
West 21st Street, New York
Cy Twombly: Imperfect Paradise
Eleonora Di Erasmo, cocurator of Un/veiled: Cy Twombly, Music, Inspirations, a program of concerts, video screenings, and works by Cy Twombly at the Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, Rome, reflects on the resonances and networks of inspiration between the artist and music. The program was the result of an extensive three-year study, done at the behest of Nicola Del Roscio in the Rome and Gaeta offices of the Cy Twombly Foundation, intended to collect, document, and preserve compositions by musicians around the world who have been inspired by Twombly’s work, or to establish an artistic dialogue with them.
Cy Twombly: Making Past Present
In 2020, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, announced their plan for a survey of Cy Twombly’s artwork alongside selections from their permanent ancient Greek and Roman collection. The survey was postponed due to the lockdowns necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, but was revived in 2022 with a presentation at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from August 2 through October 30. In 2023, the exhibition will arrive at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The curator for the exhibition, Christine Kondoleon, and Kate Nesin, author of Cy Twombly’s Things (2014) and advisor for the show, speak with Gagosian director Mark Francis about the origin of the exhibition and the aesthetic and poetic resonances that give the show its title: Making Past Present.
Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor
Thierry Greub tracks the literary references in Cy Twombly’s epic painting of 1994.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2021
The Summer 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Carrie Mae Weems’s The Louvre (2006) on its cover.
Twombly and the Poets
Anne Boyer, the inaugural winner of the Cy Twombly Award in Poetry, composes a poem in response to Twombly’s Aristaeus Mourning the Loss of His Bees (1973) and introduces a portfolio of the painter’s works accompanied by the poems that inspired them.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2021
The Spring 2021 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Gerhard Richter’s Helen (1963) on its cover.
Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies
Bobbie Sheng explores the symbiotic relationship between the poet and visual artists of his time and tracks the enduring influence of his poetry on artists working today.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2020
The Summer 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Joan Jonas’s Mirror Piece 1 (1969) on its cover.
The River Café Cookbook
London’s River Café, a culinary mecca perched on a bend in the River Thames, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2018. To celebrate this milestone and the publication of her cookbook River Café London, cofounder Ruth Rogers sat down with Derek Blasberg to discuss the famed restaurant’s allure.
Sally Mann and Jenny Saville
The two artists discuss being drawn to difficult subjects, the effects of motherhood on their practice, embracing chance, and their shared adoration of Cy Twombly.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2019
The Fall 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Sinking (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn on its cover.
Intimate Grandeur: Glenstone Museum
Paul Goldberger tracks the evolution of Mitchell and Emily Rales’s Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland. Set amid 230 acres of pristine landscape and housing a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art, this graceful complex of pavilions, designed by architects Thomas Phifer and Partners, opened to the public in the fall of 2018.
Book Launch and Talk
Thierry Greub and Richard Leeman
On Cy Twombly
Saturday, July 1, 2023, 6pm
Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, Rome
Join Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio to celebrate two recently published titles on Cy Twombly—Cy Twombly: Inscriptions by Thierry Greub and Cy Twombly and the American Critics, 1951–1995: A Reception History by Richard Leeman. Greub will speak with Klaus-Peter Busse about his monumental six-volume catalogue that traces the artist’s long engagement with literary sources from 1953 until his death in 2011. In conversation with Éric de Chassey, Leeman will discuss his book, which analyzes the reception of Twombly’s works in the United States from the artist’s first exhibition in 1951 through to his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1994–95. The event, which is free to attend, will be introduced by curator Peter Benson Miller.
Cy Twombly and the American Critics, 1951–1995: A Reception History (New York: Gagosian; Rome: Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, 2023)
Art Basel 2023
June 13–18, 2022, Hall 2, booth B15
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel 2023 with modern and contemporary works by gallery artists, as well as special entries in the Unlimited and Parcours sections of the fair.
Gagosian’s presentation in the main section of Art Basel represents the breadth and diversity of the gallery’s programming through work by artists including John Currin, Andreas Gursky, Simon Hantaï, Tetsuya Ishida, Jia Aili, Jamian Juliano-Villani, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Rick Lowe, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Sarah Sze, Mary Weatherford, Anna Weyant, Rachel Whiteread, Stanley Whitney, and Jordan Wolfson, among others. Also featured are iconic works by Willem de Kooning, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol.
Gagosian’s booth at Art Basel 2023. Artwork, left to right: © John Currin; © Rudolf Stingel; © 2023 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © 2023 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Jonas Wood; © Anna Weyant; © Jenny Saville; © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Sebastiano Pellion di Persano
Art Basel Hong Kong 2023
March 22–25, 2023
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2023 with a presentation of modern and contemporary works by international artists.
Jadé Fadojutimi, As usual, the season’s showers tend to linger, 2023 © Jadé Fadojutimi
Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries
Through February 22, 2024
Fondazione Prada, Milan
This exhibition investigates the histories and semantics of folding screens by tracing trajectories of cross-pollination between the East and the West, processes of hybridization between different art forms and functions, collaborations between designers and artists, and the emergence of new works. Paraventi presents more than seventy folding screens as well as a selection of contemporary projects, commissioned specifically for this show, by more than fifteen international artists. Work by Francis Bacon, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Jean Prouvé, Ed Ruscha, Cy Twombly, and Franz West is included.
Franz West, Paravents, 2010, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany © Archiv Franz West, © Estate Franz West, courtesy Franz West Privatstiftung. Photo: Wolfgang Günzel
El eco de Picasso
Through March 31, 2024
Museo Picasso Málaga, Spain
Organized as part of Picasso Celebration 1973–2023, a series of international exhibitions and events commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Pablo Picasso’s death, The Echo of Picasso focuses on his influence on twentieth-century art. The exhibition places Picasso’s practice in dialogue with work by more than fifty artists, including Francis Bacon, Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning, Thomas Houseago, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Richard Prince, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Cy Twombly, Tom Wesselmann, and Franz West.
Richard Prince, Untitled (Picasso), 2011, Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Madrid © Richard Prince. Photo: Pablo Asenjo
La vie en rose
Brueghel, Monet, Twombly
May 5–October 22, 2023
Museum Brandhorst, Munich
La vie en rose is centered around Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Roses), a series of six paintings created for a room in Museum Brandhorst, and on permanent display in Munich since 2009. Taking Twombly’s poetic examination of death, freedom, isolation, and eroticism as its starting point, the exhibition brings together works by various artists who have engaged with floral subjects, including Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (1915) and Andy Warhol’s Flowers (1965). The show aims to reveal the complex, even contradictory motives that have inspired artists over the centuries to take on this subject matter.
Cy Twombly, Untitled (Roses), 2008, Museum Brandhorst, Munich © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Nicole Williams
Oeuvres sur papier (1973–1977)
June 3–September 24, 2023
Musée de Grenoble, France
This exhibition, whose title translates to Works on Paper, presents a vast collection of works on paper made by Cy Twombly between 1973 and 1977, several of which have never before been exhibited. Realized in partnership with the Cy Twombly Foundation, the show explores how Twombly was able to evolve his artistic practice through drawing, collage, and printmaking—he produced only eight paintings during these years—and prepare for the creation of Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), his painting in ten parts based on Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad.
Installation view, Cy Twombly: Oeuvres sur papier (1973–1977), Musée de Grenoble, France, June 9–September 24, 2023. Artwork © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: © J. L. Lacroix, courtesy Ville de Grenoble