Cy Twombly

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Cy Twombly (born: Edwin Parker Twombly Jr .; born April 25, 1928 in Lexington , Virginia ; † July 5, 2011 in Rome , Italy ) was an American painter , photographer and object artist and is one of the most important exponents of abstract expressionism .


Cy Twombly was born in Lexington on April 25, 1928 , the son of Edwin Parker Twombly of Bar Harbor , Maine and his wife Mary Wilma Richardson of Groveland , Massachusetts . The father worked as a swimming and golf instructor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington; During his time as a professional baseball player he was named "Cy" (like Cyclone , German Zyklon ) - after Cy Young - and his son after him. From 1942 to 1946, Twombly Jr. Participated in painting classes and lectures by the Spanish artist Pierre Daura. Upon graduation, Twombly attended classes at Darlington School in Rome, Georgia . In late 1947 he began studying at the Boston Museum School in Boston . His interests at that time are determined "by German Expressionism , the Dada movement, the works of Schwitters and Soutines  [...]".

In 1949 Twombly returned to Lexington and, at the request of his parents, began studying at the local Washington and Lee University and from 1950 to 1951 received a scholarship at the Art Students League in New York from the teachers Will Barnet, Morris Kantor and Vaclav Vytlacil. At the invitation of his artist colleague Robert Rauschenberg , whom Twombly had met during his second semester at the Art Students League, he took part in a painting course with the painters Robert Motherwell and Ben Shahn at Black Mountain College in North Carolina for one semester .

Together with Robert Rauschenberg he traveled to the south of the USA in 1952 . The journey to Cuba led via Charleston , New Orleans to Key West . In late summer he attended Black Mountain College, where he met Franz Kline , Jack Tworkov and John Cage , who were teaching there, and took a course in photography. A travel grant from the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts in Virginia enabled him to travel to Europe and North Africa , visiting France , Spain , Italy and Morocco , where he met Robert Rauschenberg in Casablanca . With him he traveled on to Marrakech and from there over the Atlas Mountains and Tangier to Tétouan , where he met the American writer Paul Bowles . In February 1953 both artists drove back to Rome via Madrid and Barcelona .

Twombly, who returned to America in May 1953, shared an atelier with Rauschenberg on Fulton Street in New York, where a joint exhibition was held in the Stable Gallery that fall . In the fall of 1953, Twombly was drafted for military service at Camp Gordon , near Augusta , Georgia, and later posted to Washington, DC until August 1954 .

In early 1955, Twombly accepted a one-year teaching post at Southern Seminary and Junior College in Buena Vista , Virginia. In the spring of 1957, after another exhibition in the Stable Gallery, the artist continuously moved his residence to Rome, but initially rented a house on Procida for the months of July and August and worked on drawings which he later destroyed. On Procida he read the poems of Stéphane Mallarmé , which were to influence his future work.

Twombly married Tatiana Franchetti on April 20, 1959 in New York. He rented a studio in Lexington, Virginia, where a series of ten large format paintings were created that were intended for , but not shown, for an exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery . With his wife he traveled to Cuba and Mexico . Their son Cyrus Alessandro was born in Rome in December. The following year the family moved into an apartment on Via Monserrato.

In the following years he toured the Mediterranean region , painted in Ischia in July 1960 and in August traveled to Greece and St. Cristina , a small town in Val Gardena , where he spent the autumn in the house of the Franchetti family, the Castel Gardena. In October of the same year, Twombly's first exhibition took place at the Leo Castelli Gallery. In 1961 he rented a studio in the Piazza del Biscione in Rome, near the Campo dei Fiori , whose rooms he used until 1966.

Memorial plaque in the Roman church of Santa Maria in Vallicella

He spent June and July 1961 in the Cyclades and August in Mykonos . From this point on, mythological themes should determine his visual language, like the cycle of drawings by Delian Odes . In January and February 1962, Twombly went to Egypt and Sudan . On a ship he traveled along the Nile to Wadi Halfa . From autumn 1964 he worked briefly on pictures in Munich , which were exhibited in November of the same year in the Friedrich + Dahlem gallery under the title The Artist in the Northern Climate together with the drawings Notes from a Tower . In the same year, after a visit to the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York , Donald Judd judged : "There are a few blobs and a few splatters and a pencil line here and there". However, his fellow students at Black Mountain College in North Carolina have long been successful. Jasper Johns exhibited at the documenta in Kassel. His studio partner Robert Rauschenberg received the grand prize for painting at the Venice Biennale. Twombly was frustrated and didn't paint for a year. He started all over again in the second half of the sixties. His blackboard paintings were created. From 1967 to 1976 he stayed in New York, on Long Island , with Rauschenberg in Captiva Island in Florida , in Zurich and Naples . Large-format collages and lithographs were created in New York and Florida . In 1982 he was represented at the group exhibition Zeitgeist .

Twombly last lived and worked in Gaeta south of Rome. He was awarded the Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen in 1987 , and in 1995 he received the Goslarer Kaiserring . In 1987 Twombly was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 1998 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . Most recently, he was honored with the Gerhard Altenbourg Prize in 2008 .


"Bacchus" by Cy Twombly, Iron Curtain in the Vienna State Opera , 2010/2011 season

Along with Franz Kline , Robert Motherwell , Helen Frankenthaler , Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly is one of the best-known representatives of American Abstract Expressionism . His pictures combine the features of abstract painting with lettering-like drawings to form a very fine, fabric-like basic ductus. Despite or because of the restrained means of expression and the filigree technique, his large-format paintings appear monumental.

Twombly's painting is reminiscent of doodles on bar tables, on house walls or urinals and thus provokes associations with the later visual language of graffiti . In his black pictures , he used chalk techniques and emulsion paints on a dark background to quote sweeping, sometimes blurred scrawls like on school blackboards. Nobody was allowed to watch or disturb the artist while he was painting. For days he sat in front of the blank canvas until it broke out of him and he finished the picture after a few minutes.

After his travels to the Mediterranean and North Africa, Twombly turned increasingly to mythological subjects. He preferred to get inspiration from the Greek legend . In doing so, he mostly used canvases or paper with a white primer, which he applied using mixed techniques of acrylic painting , pencil drawing and oil painting in combination with collage techniques (notes, scraps of fabric, etc.) and seemingly arbitrary elements: cryptic word fragments and ciphers , which he repeatedly painted over . One of his collectors, the publisher and gallery owner Lothar Schirmer , is said to have once said as an anecdote : "If you own a Twombly, you can never be sure that after twenty years it won't suddenly come back to paint over the picture." He often expanded his compositions to include oversized diptychs or triptychs with sometimes unusual image formats.

In the 1960s, Twombly took up more historical topoi in his pictures , for example in his main works The Age of Alexander (1959–1960) or in his late work, the 12-part cycle Lepanto (2001) . However, he continued to paint pictures or designed collages on mythological themes, for example Triumph of Galatea / Triumph der Galatea (1961) or Leda and the Swan / Leda and the Swan (1961) . Most of Twombly's works, however, are untitled or at least have a subtitle.

In July 2007, a 30-year-old Cambodian woman kissed the 2 million euro painting “Phaedrus” at an exhibition in Avignon, France, and left a stain of lipstick that cannot be removed. The French court of appeal sentenced the woman in June 2009 to EUR 18,400 restoration costs and EUR 500 procedural costs.

In 2010, a 400 m² ceiling painting designed by Twombly was completed in the room of the ancient bronzes in the Louvre in Paris .

During the 2010/2011 season, Twombly's work “Bacchus” was shown in the Vienna State Opera as part of the “Iron Curtain” series of exhibitions conceived by museum in progress as a huge large picture (170 m²).

Up to 70 million US dollars have been paid for Twombly's works on the international art market.

Sculptures and photographs

Twombly preferred to use rough and rudimentary found objects for his three-dimensional works. For example, wagon wheels or simple pieces of wood appear in the sculptures. The sculptor and photographer Twombly is less well known . His sculptures and figurines made from found objects, cast bronze or wood , which he painted with white paint, exude a pure, meditative power. In his late work there are also numerous photographic works, mostly floral motifs.

Presence in museums and exhibitions

Numerous international solo exhibitions and retrospectives have been dedicated to Cy Twombly's work. He was represented at the Venice Biennale and the documenta Kassel . His work can be found worldwide, for example in the Museum of Modern Art , the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum or the Center Georges Pompidou .

The Italian architect Renzo Piano designed a museum building for the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, which houses around 30 works by Twombly and was specially tailored to the pictures in collaboration with the artist.

The entire upper floor of the Brandhorst Museum in Munich is also dedicated to Twombly . The museum exhibited in 2011 entitled Cy Twombly. Photographs 1951–2010 120 photographs from 60 years of the artist's work. In the same year this exhibition went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Siegen .




Web links

Commons : Cy Twombly  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Randy Kennedy: American Artist Who Scribbled a Unique Path. In: New York Times , July 5, 2011 (English).
  2. Biography
  3. a b c d e Heiner Bastian (Ed.): Cy Twombly , Volume IV, p. 178.
  4. Cy Twombly. In: The Telegraph , July 5, 2011 (English).
  5. a b Heiner Bastian (Ed.): Cy Twombly , Volume IV, p. 179.
  6. Silke Hohmann: The man who brought Twombly to Munich. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , March 20, 2008.
  7. Cy Twombly is dead . In: n-tv , July 6, 2011.
  8. ^ Members: Cy Twombly. American Academy of Arts and Letters, accessed April 30, 2019 .
  9. Wolfgang Kremp, Wulf Herzogenrath and Lothar Schirmer (eds.): From Beuys to Cindy Sherman - The Lothar Schirmer Collection . Munich 1999, ISBN 3-88814-870-7 , p. 19 ff.
  10. Bernhard Schulz: The colors of the sea. In: Der Tagesspiegel , July 6, 2011.
  11. Carla Schulz-Hoffmann : Cy Twombly - Lepanto: A contribution to the opening of the Brandhorst Museum. Catholic Academy in Bavaria , May 11, 2009 (PDF; 337 kB)
  12. ^ A Costly Kiss. In: The New York Times , November 17, 2007.
  13. 18,400 € for an embrassé and a tableau. AFP report in Le Figaro , June 2, 2009 (French).
  14. Painting by Cy Twombly at Christie's auction house , accessed on July 5, 2016.
  15. ^ Cy Twombly Gallery. The Menil Collection, 2008, archived from the original on September 3, 2012 ; Retrieved July 5, 2016 .
  16. ^ Susanne Lux: Flowers, soaked in light. In: Die Zeit , April 12, 2011.
  17. ^ Art: art edition March-April ISSN  1866-542X p. 18.