CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)
CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more
CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)


CY TWOMBLY (1928-2011)
signed, inscribed and dated 'Cy Twombly Roma 1961' (on the reverse)
graphite, wax crayon and coloured pencil on paper
13 1/8 x 14in. (33.3 x 35.6cm.)
Executed in 1961
Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne.
Ingrid and Willi Kemp Collection, Düsseldorf (acquired from the above in 1963).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Neue Farben - Eine Auswahl aus der Sammlung Kemp, exh. cat., Düsseldorf, Museum Kunstpalast, 2011, p. 501.
N. Del Roscio, Cy Twombly Drawings, Cat. Rais. Vol. 3 1961-1963, Munich 2013, no. 38 (illustrated in colour, p. 44).
Cologne, Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cy Twombly, 1963.
Düsseldorf, Museum Kunst Palast, Die Sammlung Ingrid und Willi Kemp, 2001, p. 473 (illustrated in colour, p. 346).
Chemnitz, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Schrift, Zeichen, Geste, Carlfriedrich Claus im Kontext von Klee bis Pollock, 2005 (illustrated in colour, p. 341).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Anna Touzin
Anna Touzin Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Executed in Rome in 1961, a critical year in which the artist reached a fever pitch of creativity, Untitled is a splendid celebration of the new ethereal language that would come to define Cy Twombly’s oeuvre. Rendered in graphite, wax crayon and coloured pencil on paper, it presents a frenzied flurry of scrawls, loops and pictorial symbols, its pattern of raw, sensual forms reading like lines of a graphic poem. Shrouded in delicate sfumato, faint lines of graphite permeate the picture plane, while flashes of coloured crayon—an ochre smear, bright red scrawls, glimmers of pale lilac, a spurt of golden yellow—lend the work an explosive vitality. Encrypted in these gestures are fleshy motifs that imbue the work with a palpable human presence. The upper half of the composition is more spacious, conjuring an airy sky over landscape. Delicate yet visceral, Untitled is a magnificent example of the unfettered lyrical beauty that permeates Twombly’s practice. The work has been in the same collection since 1963, when it was acquired by the esteemed collectors Ingrid and Willi Kemp: it featured in exhibitions dedicated to their collection at the Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf in 2001 and 2011.

Untitled belongs to a group of small-scale works on paper that Twombly created in 1961, in conjunction with a group of larger, equally sumptuous canvases that same year. The 1960s were a prolific decade for Twombly, following his move to Rome from New York in 1957. By 1961, he was permanently settled in the city, renting a studio in Piazza del Biscione near Campo de’ Fiori. The works he created during this year have been described by Kirk Varnedoe as ‘the most impressive, most emotionally wrought works of [his] career’, skilfully reflecting the language, attitude and tempo of the Italian capital (K. Varnedoe, quoted in Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, exh. cat. Museum of Modern Art, New York 1994, pp. 34-35). In Untitled, along with major works like his Ferragosto series (1961), School of Athens (1961) and Triumph of Galatea (1961), Twombly presents an ode to his beloved Italy: a lettera d’amore to his new home.

Twombly’s practice arose in dialogue with the flourishing of Abstract Expressionism in New York, his surfaces often likened to the action painting of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Yet, in contrast to the bold gestures of his contemporaries, Twombly conceived his works as open fields of activity, his delicate, free-floating forms appearing to stretch infinitely beyond the picture plane. This approach can be charted back to his days working as a cryptographer in the army, where in an effort to detach himself from any figurative idioms, he would practice drawing in the dark. The present work can also be likened to Leonardo da Vinci’s Deluge drawings, which he greatly admired. As Roland Barthes has written, ‘One might think that in order to express the character of pencil one has to press it against the paper, to reinforce its appearance, to make it thick, intensely black. Twombly thinks the opposite: it is in holding in check the pressure of matter, in letting it alight almost nonchalantly on the paper so that its grain is a little dispersed, that matter will show its essence and make us certain of its correct name: this is pencil’ (R. Barthes, ‘The Wisdom of Art’, 1979, in N. Del Roscio (ed.), Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich 2002, p. 103).

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