Cy Twombly

In Cy Twombly’s works, the boundaries between art and writing dissolve. Inspired by antiquity, nature and poetry, his hypnotic marks visualise the formation of knowledge and sensation. Though born in America, Twombly spent much of his life in Italy. His paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and prints seem to traverse the entire spectrum of human experience, capturing the pulsations of life itself.

Twombly was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1928. As an art student he became close friends with Robert Rauschenberg, and the two attended the legendary Black Mountain College in the summer of 1951. In 1953, Twombly was drafted into the US military, where he served as a cryptologist. At night he experimented with drawing in the dark, seeking to dislocate his hand from his eye. These explorations informed the schismatic surfaces of his earliest major works, setting the tone for the rest of his practice.

Twombly moved to Rome in 1957. Over the following decade he would produce some of his most important artworks, including The Age of Alexander (1959–60), School of Fontainebleau (1960), Empire of Flora (1961), the Ferragosto paintings (1961) and his meditations on Leda and the Swan (1962). Between 1966 and 1971, he completed his landmark series of ‘blackboard’ paintings, whose impulsive, looping scrawls would come to be synonymous with his oeuvre. In 1969, he produced his celebrated Bolsena paintings, partly inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing that summer. Untitled examples from both series stand among his most expensive paintings at auction.

References to the classical world — from Virgil to Venus to Bacchus — populate Twombly’s art. More broadly, his oeuvre may be said to embody the conflicting dynamics of Apollo and Dionysus, swinging between logical order and irrational chaos. Inspired by the poems of Stéphane Mallarmé, many of his early works were sparse and pale. His later canvases, however, embraced wild, expressive colour and gesture.

After taking a house in the bay of Gaeta in 1985, the rhythms of nature became increasingly prominent in Twombly’s paintings. Important examples include his two sets of Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons) (1993–94), his odes to roses and other flowers, and his late blue and white paintings.

Twombly died in 2011. His visionary body of work had a profound influence upon younger artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tracey Emin.


CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)

No. X, from Natural History Part I: Mushrooms

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Leda and the Swan

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled [Bolsena]

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (New York City)

CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)

Untitled (Bacchus 1st Version II)

CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)

Untitled [Bolsena]

CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)

Venere Sopra Gaeta

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (Rome)

Cy Twombly (b. 1928)

Untitled (Rome)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Death of Pompey (Rome)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled [Gaeta]

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (Lexington, Virginia)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled No. 3

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (Rome)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Solar Barge of Sesostris

Cy Twombly (b. 1928)

Untitled (Gaeta)

CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)

10 Day Wait at Mugda

CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)

Untitled (Roman Note)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (Rome)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (Rome)

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Lycian drawing

Cy Twombly (b. 1928)

Leda and the Swan

Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

On Returning from Tonnicoda