Cy Twombly (b. 1928)
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Cy Twombly (b. 1928)

Untitled (Rome)

Cy Twombly (b. 1928)
Untitled (Rome)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Cy Twombly, Roma 1960' (upper left)
oil, wax crayon and lead pencil on canvas
19¾ x 23½in. (50.2 x 59.7cm.)
Painted in Rome in 1960
Galleria la Tartaruga, Rome.
Collection Leonardo Sinisgalli.
Galleria Marino, Rome.
Private Collection, U.S.A.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's New York, 1 November 1994, lot 24.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Bastian (ed.), Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, 1948-1960, vol. I, Mosel 1992, no. 182 (illustrated in colour, p. 273).
Rome, Galleria Marino, Proposta I, 1975, no. 26 (illustrated on the folder).
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Lot Essay

Untitled (Rome) was executed in 1960, a vintage year in the artist's career when he had moved into grand lodgings in Rome with his new family. A searing clarity filled many of his works from this period. This is evident in the cleansing brightness that absorbs Untitled (Rome), with much of its background left undecorated, in reserve, filling the work with light. These areas of reserve also allow the composition to breathe, and make the main area of the picture all the more striking by its contrast with the empty space.

Twombly's art hovers on the brink of figuration, yet remains elusive, just beyond the grasp of our comprehension. However, the lines themselves are expressive of the artist's actions and presence, each mark tracing Twombly's actions and feelings during the process of execution: 'Each line now is the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate - it is the sensation of its own realization. The imagery is one of the private or separate indulgencies rather than an abstract totality of visual perception' (Twombly, quoted in K. Varnedoe (ed.), Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York 1994, p. 27). In this way, Twombly has not represented the world around him, but has instead allowed it to drive him, to guide his movements before the canvas. As well as a record of his own sensations, though, Untitled (Rome) is visual proof of the artist's life, and therefore serves as a wider existential affirmation for the viewer too, while the scrawled numbers at the bottom imply a world of reason and measurement, as though life itself is quantifiable, that is strangely at odds with the frantic lines of the image. These lines, which deliberately echo the ancient graffiti on Roman walls, fill the work with a peculiar atmosphere - Untitled (Rome) is timeless, and yet its gestural style is deeply modern.


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