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Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION 
Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled

Details
Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
Untitled
signed, inscribed and dated 'Cy Twombly Roma 1962' (lower left)
oil, graphite and wax crayon on canvas
31½ x 39 3/8in. (80 x 100cm.)
Executed in 1962
Provenance
Galleria La Tartaruga, Rome.
Galerie Änne Abels, Cologne.
Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne.
Hirschl & Adler Modern, New York.
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne.
Private Collection, Texas.
Acquired from the above by the late owners in 1987 and thence by descent to the present owners.
Literature
das kunstwerk, April 1963 (illustrated in colour, on the cover).
H. Bastian (ed.), Cy Twombly Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, vol. II, 1961-1965, Munich 1993, no. 81 (illustrated in colour, p. 151).
Exhibited
Cologne, Galerie Änne Abels, Cy Twombly, 1963 (illustrated in colour, unpaged and on the cover).
Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Arbeiten von Arp, Balla, Dali, Dubuffet, Ernst, Fautrier, Kandinsky, Klein, Miró, Magritte, Picabia, Picasso, Tanguy, Twombly, 1983.
New York, Hirschl & Adler Modern, Cy Twombly. Paintings and Drawings: 1952-1984, 1984, no. 17 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).

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Lot Essay

'The reality of whiteness may exist in the duality of sensation (as the multiple anxiety of desire and fear). Whiteness can be the classic state of intellect, or a neo-romantic area of remembrance - or as a symbolic witness of Mallarmé. The exact implications may never by analyzed, but in that it persists as the landscape of my actions, it must imply more than selection. One is a reflection of meaning. So that the action must continually bear out the realization of existence. Therefore the act is the primary sensation'
(C. Twombly quoted in 'Documenti di una nuove figurazione: Toti Scialoja, Gastone Novelli, Pierre Alechinsky, Achille Perilli, Cy Twombly', L'Esperienza moderna, no. 2, August-September 1957, p. 32)


'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 indulgences rather than an abstract totality of visual perception' (C. Twombly, quoted in Documenti di una nuova figurazione: Toti Scialoja, Gastone Novelli, Pierre Alechinsky, Achille Perilli, Cy Twombly, L'Esperienza moderna, no. 2 August-September 1957, p. 32).




Adorned with a lyrical application and bold flashes of thick, impastoed texture, Untitled (1962) is an important precursor to Cy Twombly's seminal Psyche and Amor and Capitoli series of paintings. It begins the process by which Twombly opens up his canvas to explore the expressive qualities of space within his previously visually complex compositions. Comprised of dramatic areas of heavy paint, passages of text and spirited, fine graphite lines, these mysterious symbols and signs combine into a lyrical rhapsody of line and colour. Laid out horizontally across the upper portion of the canvas is a progression of five circular forms each consisting of a rapidly executed graphite form, enclosing a dash of colour, progressing from warm pink to earthy brown and beyond. Under each of these circles Twombly spells out a descriptive moniker-such as 'Flesh', 'Blood', 'Earth', and 'Clouds' - that addresses the tonal value of the colour enclosed within it. Along the lower edge of the canvas Twombly inserts a line of ancient Greek poetry: 'But the Spirit within them turned chill and down dropped their wings'. This line of verse, from Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite, speaks of the unwilling acceptance of a forlorn individual who has failed to secure the ardor of a reluctant lover. Twombly's appropriation of this line of ancient verse speaks directly to his love of the ancient. Ever since he left the United States and settled in Rome in 1957 he had been fascinated by the juxtaposition of ancient and the modern that surrounded him in the Italian capital. Beginning in 1962 Twombly began to draw together the scrawls, splashes smears and drips of paint that he had previously dispersed across the surface of the canvas into a more coalesced composition. This process would result in some of the artist's most iconic paintings from this important period of his career, culminating in such masterworks as The Death of Giuliano de Medici (Hamburger Kunsthalle) and Vengeance of Achilles (Kunsthaus Zurich). Surrounded by a halo of whiteness, Twombly introduces a series of graphic and textural motifs that endow the surface of the work with an atmosphere of theatrical beauty.

Recalling the ancient graffiti of Pompeii or even of Rome, these elements introduce a palpable sense of timelessness. They are ancient and universal, reflecting Twombly's own perception of the continuing, living history of Europe and in particular of Rome, formerly the hub of Western civilisation. This city, with its still-standing, sometimes inhabited monuments, lives alongside its past in a way that enchanted and fascinated the artist, who had grown up in the relatively 'new' United States. Whilst in the United States, history was popularly conceived as a matter of a few centuries, Rome is the result of the accretion of thousands of years of culture, of building, of living, of evolution. It was not only the epic themes of the legends of the past that led to Twombly's fascination with Rome, but also the simple fact and the little evidences of the continuation of century upon century of day-to-day living. And nowhere is the humblest proof of that life shown than in the ancient graffiti, which in itself adds such a texture to the past.

The poems of Sappho are a pertinent source of inspiration for Twombly's own lyrical version of mark making. Sappho was a lyrist, performing her poems with the accompaniment of a lyre. She reinvigorated Greek poetry both in technique and style and became part of a new wave of Greek lyrists who moved away from writing poetry from the point of view of the Gods and muses to the personal vantage points of the individual. The lyrical elegance of Twombly's marks and brushstrokes mirrors the melodic nature of Sappho's poetry, giving it a graceful elegance punctuated by echoes of high chromatic drama. By allowing each of the individual elements enough space to breathe, Twombly emphasises the various marks of pencil, crayon and oil paint that articulate the canvas. While some of his earlier works had featured an increasingly prominent use of colour, here he has judiciously pared this back, making the few flashes of oil all the more dramatic. These he appears to have applied directly with his hands, as is emphasised by the smeared and dragged areas spread throughout the surface of the work. This fills the work with a sense of immediacy, while the gesturality itself adds a highly personal dimension. We are witnesses to the artist's touch and intervention.

Twombly's painting practice clearly demonstrates the totality of his art. For him, art goes beyond the duality of figuration or abstraction; it is about the entirety of the experience, not just a recreation of it. In addition to the action that takes place up on the surface of the canvas, there is also a sense of a domain existing beyond the space that is labeled as background. The actions (marks, brushstrokes and impasto) that occur in this space are the reflections of meaning, actions that continuously bear out the realization of their existence. In this way, Twombly explained, his paintings become actual recordings of feeling, emotion, experience, life, rather than depictions or imitations of it. Each line 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 indulgences rather than an abstract totality of visual perception' (C. Twombly, quoted in 'Documenti di una nuova figurazione: Toti Scialoja, Gastone Novelli, Pierre Alechinsky, Achille Perilli, Cy Twombly', L'Esperienza moderna, no. 2 August-September 1957, p. 32).

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