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
Coronation of Sesostris
March 8–April 28, 2018
980 Madison Avenue, New York
May 25–July 29, 2017
Extended through April 22, 2017
December 1, 2016–April 22, 2017
October 10–December 12, 2015
Grosvenor Hill, London
October 10–December 12, 2015
Davies Street, London
Extended through July 2, 2015
April 23–July 2, 2015
980 Madison Avenue, New York
The Last Paintings
November 1–December 22, 2012
980 Madison Avenue, New York
Cy Twombly: In Beauty it is finished
Mark Francis, director of the exhibition Cy Twombly: In Beauty it is finished, Drawings 1951–2008, describes the impetus for this expansive presentation, the source for its title, and details the stories of some of the works on view.
Cy Twombly: Coronation of Sesostris
Cy Twombly’s Coronation of Sesostris (2000) receives a closer look by Gagosian Director, Mark Francis. In this video, he discusses the history of the work, the myths and poetry embedded within it, and considers its lasting impact.
Katharina Grosse reflects on the work of Cy Twombly.
Olivier Berggruen and Mary Jacobus spoke about the works in the inaugural exhibition at Gagosian’s Grosvenor Hill outpost.
Treatise on the Veil: Cy Twombly at the Morgan
On the occasion of the Morgan Library and Museum’s exhibition of Cy Twombly’s monumental painting Treatise on the Veil (1970) and related drawings, Gagosian director Mark Francis speaks with Isabelle Dervaux, Acquavella Curator of Modern & Contemporary Drawings at the Morgan.
David R. Baum
Tuesday, May 7, 2019, 6:30pm
New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York
To mark the recent publication of Cy Twombly: Fifty Days at Iliam, Carlos Basualdo, senior curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and editor of the book, will speak with David R. Baum, the Secretary and Outside General Counsel of the Cy Twombly Foundation. The publication is an in-depth look at Cy Twombly’s masterpiece Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), a series of ten paintings based on Alexander Pope’s eighteenth-century translation of Homer’s Iliad. To attend the free event, register at www.nypl.org.
Cy Twombly: Fifty Days at Iliam (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art; New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018)
Wednesday, March 20, 2019, 3pm
Centre Canadien d’Architecture, Montréal
Cy Dear (2018), a film that traces the life and work of Cy Twombly, will be screened as part of the thirty-seventh edition of the Festival International du film sur l’art (FIFA) in Montreal. To celebrate what would have been his ninetieth birthday, this documentary pays homage to Twombly’s prolific career, looking closely at his work around the world and the different creative periods within his oeuvre. To attend the event, purchase tickets at www.artfifa.com.
Cy Twombly, Leaving Paphos Ringed With Waves (IV), 2009
© Cy Twombly Foundation
January 18–20, 2019, booth D13
Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in the inaugural edition of Taipei Dangdai, Taiwan’s first international art fair. Marking the gallery’s first presentation in Taiwan, the booth will include artworks by Georg Baselitz, Joe Bradley, John Currin, Edmund de Waal, Urs Fischer, Helen Frankenthaler, Katharina Grosse, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Nam June Paik, Sterling Ruby, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, and others.
To receive a PDF with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at email@example.com. To attend the fair, purchase tickets at taipeidangdai.com. To preview our booth, go to artsy.net.
Georg Baselitz, 5 mal endwärts, 2018 © Georg Baselitz 2019
How Far Can Creativity Take You
VMFA Fellowship Artists
Through November 17, 2019
VMFA on the Road: An Artmobile for the 21st Century, various locations throughout Virginia
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’s new state-of-the-art traveling museum and art studio offers an opportunity for residents of the Commonwealth to see and experience works of art from the collection up close. The inaugural exhibition, How Far Can Creativity Take You, celebrates the role this institution has played in the lives of fellowship recipients. Work by Sally Mann and Cy Twombly is included.
Cy Twombly, The Song of the Border Guard, 1952 © Cy Twombly Foundation
Pollock to Herrera
Opened December 17, 2018
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera explores large-scale abstract painting, sculpture, and assemblage, from the 1940s to the twenty-first century, through works from the Met collection and special loans. Many of the artists in the exhibition worked in large formats not only to explore aesthetic elements of line, color, shape, and texture, but also to activate scale’s metaphoric potential to evoke expansive—“epic”—ideas and subjects, including time, history, nature, and existential concerns of the self. Work by Helen Frankenthaler and Cy Twombly is included.
Helen Frankenthaler, Western Dream, 1957, collection of Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York © 2018 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
August 26–November 4, 2018
Château La Coste, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade, France
Cy Twombly: Photographs is comprised of thirty photographs, taken between 1985 and 2008, variously depicting intimate spaces, landscapes, and natural subjects. This exhibition has traveled from the Sursock Museum in Beirut.
Cy Twombly, Untitled, 2002 © Nicola Del Roscio Foundation
Cy Twombly and Greek Antiquity
May 25–September 3, 2017
Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens
Works by Cy Twombly, inspired by Greece and Greek mythology, come together with ancient artworks in this exhibition, curated by Professor Nikolaos Stampolidis, director of the Museum of Cycladic Art, and Jonas Storsve, curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and of the recent major Cy Twombly retrospective exhibition.
Cy Twombly, Venus, 1975 © Cy Twombly Foundation