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.
Photo: Michael Stravato/The New York Times/Redux
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.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
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
Tour and Book Signing
Thursday, February 23, 2023, 6pm
Gagosian, 980 Madison Avenue, New York
Art historian and lecturer Thierry Greub will lead a tour of the exhibition Cy Twombly, on view at Gagosian, 980 Madison Avenue, New York, through March 4, 2023. Guiding guests through the selection of paintings, sculptures, and works on paper produced in the final decade of Twombly’s life, Greub will discuss the artist’s handwritten notations, placing them in context with their literary sources, including the poetry of Charles Olson. Following the tour, the Gagosian Shop at 976 Madison Avenue will host a reception and book signing to celebrate Greub’s recently published monumental six-volume catalogue, Cy Twombly: Inscriptions, which traces the artist’s relationship with poetry and incorporation of writing into his compositions from 1953 until his death in 2011. Published by Brill | Fink, the book will be available for purchase at the event.
Cy Twombly: Inscriptions (Paderborn, Germany: Brill | Fink, 2022)
To Neptune, Ruler of the Seas Profound
Monday, December 5, 2022, 6:30pm
Gagosian, Beverly Hills
Join Gagosian for a live performance inside the exhibition Cy Twombly at Gagosian, Beverly Hills, by musician, producer, and film and television composer Isabella Summers, a founding member of Florence and the Machine. Titled To Neptune, Ruler of the Seas Profound, the piece is inspired by Twombly’s life and work. The music is interwoven with quotations from poems and literary texts by authors who have served as muses or subjects for Twombly, including Homer, Stéphane Mallarmé, and William Butler Yeats. The performance expands on a composition Summers performed in Rome in May 2022 at the Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio.
Isabella Summers. Photo: Kasia Wozniak
Sally Mann and Cy Twombly
Opened November 23, 2022
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
This exhibition brings together three sculptures by Cy Twombly, on loan from the Cy Twombly Foundation, and thirteen photographs by Sally Mann from her Remembered Light series (1999–2012). Twombly and Mann were both born and raised in the southeastern state of Virginia. Mann photographed Twombly’s Lexington home and studio over several years, from 1999 until after his passing in 2011. Through her lens, she sought to capture aspects of his life, his inner world, and his appreciation for the past. Appearing alongside Twombly’s sculptures, the photographs—pervaded by the same themes of life, mortality, and remembrance present in Mann’s other work—form a poetic dialogue between these two friends and their powerful artistic visions.
Installation view, Sally Mann and Cy Twombly: Remembered Light, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 23, 2022–May 7, 2023. Artwork, front to back: © Cy Twombly Foundation, © Sally Mann. Photo: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Through July 2, 2023
Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, Morocco
In the fall of 1952, Cy Twombly met up with his friend Robert Rauschenberg in Casablanca and the two of them traveled to Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains, and then on to Tangier. Much of the surviving work from this trip consists of photographs taken with a Rolleiflex shared by the artists, and sketches preserved by their respective foundations. This exhibition, curated by Nicola Del Roscio, explores Twombly’s affinity for Morocco through his paintings, photographs, and sketches. Cy Twombly, Morocco, 1952/1953 is presented by the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, in partnership with the Cy Twombly Foundation and the Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio.
Installation view, Cy Twombly: Morocco, 1952/1953, Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech, Morocco, March 4–July 2, 2023. Artwork © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Marco Cappelletti, courtesy © Fondation Jardin Majorelle
Beautiful, Vivid, Self-contained
Through July 21, 2023
Hill Art Foundation, New York
Beautiful, Vivid, Self-contained is an exhibition curated by David Salle that brings together paintings and sculptures by artists working across different eras, mediums, and geographies to explore the notion of affinity between works of art. Alongside a painting by Salle from 1988, work by Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Mark Grotjahn, Brice Marden, Albert Oehlen, Pablo Picasso, Cy Twombly, and Christopher Wool is included.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 1990 © Albert Oehlen
La vie en rose
Brueghel, Monet, Twombly
Through 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