• Post-War & Contemporary Art Ev auction at Christies

    Sale 12243

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    6 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 35

    Cy Twombly (1928-2011)



    Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
    signed and dated 'Cy Twombly 1964' (lower right)
    pencil, coloured pencil and ballpoint pen on paper laid down on board
    27 5/8 x 39 3/8in. (70 x 100cm.)
    Executed in 1964

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    ‘I like emphasis … I like something to jumpstart me – usually a place or a literary reference or an event that took place, to start me off. To give me clarity and energy’

    Formerly in the Marx Collection in Berlin, this untitled drawing is an important work from a series entitled Notes from a Tower that Cy Twombly made in Castel Gardena in the town of Santa Christina in the Dolomite region of Northern Italy in the summer of 1964. Twombly’s Notes from a Tower drawings presumably took their title from the central tower of the Castel Gardena – a 17th Century castle owned by the artist’s illustrious Italian in-laws – where Twombly took up residence for much of July and August, 1964. These works were made in preparation for a major exhibition of Twombly’s work to be held in Munich in the autumn of that year at the Galerie Friedrich + Dahlem where many of them, including the present drawing, were exhibited alongside a new series of paintings shown under the collective title of The Artist in the Northern Climate. As indicated by a crossed-out inscription at the bottom of the work, this drawing was originally entitled ‘The Tower’.

    One of the most elaborate and extensively worked examples in the whole series, Untitled depicts an explosion of graphic imagery centred upon an enclosed space that is defined by a sequence of window-like grids surrounding it. This motif is a recurring element in many of the Castel Gardena drawings and in this work is centred upon the written word ‘bed’ which Twombly has scrawled in the middle of the drawing as if it were the epicentre from which much of this graphic activity emanates. Although rapidly executed, much of this flurry of graphic form and energetic scrawling is in actuality subtly articulated with delicate and considered additions of colour. At various places throughout the composition Twombly, using either a pencil or a biro, has gently heightened the drawing with subtle hints of pink, yellow red and turquoise. These touches have the effect of lifting the main body of Twombly’s drawing out of the realm of being a purely mental landscape or graphic flow of mental activity and bestowing it with a persuasive sense of intuitive feeling and of tactile, visceral enjoyment in his materials.

    As Twombly’s companion, Nicola del Roscio, has recalled of the perpetually roaming artist, whenever he travelled, ‘Cy always carried drawing paper in his bags’ and upon arrival in a new place would immediately ‘ritually arrange, on a table or on the floor, and in a very symmetrical way, his set of stencils, paper, paint, and brushes. When he felt ready to work, he would become very preoccupied and nervous and reclusive for a few days and did not wish to be disturbed. He would become very reflective, staring at what he imagined he was going to execute on paper. He would sit on a stool while photographing in his mind both what he imagined and what he visualized on paper, and after this period of thought, he would burst into action, giving the impression of frenzied acceleration. I always thought that his speed in working was out of fear that the visualization of his image might disappear and that his preoccupied nervousness was that of an actor before going on stage’ (N. del Roscio, ‘Some Notes on Cy Twombly’, in N. del Roscio (ed.) Cy Twombly Drawings Vol 4. 1964 – 69, Munich 2014, p. 5).

    As this works reveals, these is also a strong element of the performative in Twombly’s work. In addition to a clearly indicated sense of position and place, there is also a profound sense of this location being also a stage upon or against which the artist can and has performed. This feature runs like a constant throughout much of Twombly’s work. It is here emphasized by the overt contrast established between the static grid of the window-like forms - that with their sense of logical pinpointing appear to strongly outline a fixed sense of position - and the organic, and apparently burgeoning flow of sensual, looping curved lines that fill the centre of the work. This is an element also reinforced by the strong and definitive-looking cross-marks or ‘x’s’ which Twombly has placed across some of the most intensely fluid areas of graphic activity as if he were attempting to fix and focus these locations/moments as points of especial interest in what is essentially both a mental map of graphic feeling and an emotional chart of the artist’s graphic thought processes.


    Galerie Friedrich & Dahlem, Munich.
    Marx Collection, Berlin.
    Private Collection, New York.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 16 February 1989, lot 249.
    Private Collection, New York.
    C & M Arts, New York.
    L & M Arts, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008.

    Pre-Lot Text



    N. del Roscio, Cy Twombly Drawings Cat. Rais. Vol. 4 1964-1969, Munich 2014, no. 50 (illustrated in colour, p. 56).


    Munich, Galerie Friedrich & Dahlem, Cy Twombly, 1964.
    Berlin, Nationalgalerie Berlin, Joseph Beuys, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol: Sammlung Marx, 1982, pp. 222-223, no. 83 (illustrated, p. 147). This exhibition later travelled to Mönchengladbach, Städtisches Museum Abteiberg.
    New York, Pace Gallery, Cy Twombly: Works on Paper, 1988, pl. 4 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
    New York, Neuhoff Gallery, The Gesture, Movement in Painting and Sculpture, 2002, p. 36 (illustrated in colour, p. 37).
    Los Angeles, Michael Kohn Gallery, Cy Twombly and Jean-Michel Basquiat, 2004 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
    New York, L& M Arts, Cy Twombly: Selected Works, 2007.