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Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
Cy Twombly (1928-2011)

Untitled (Roman Note 15)

Details
Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
Untitled (Roman Note 15)
numbered '15' (upper left); signed and dated 'Cy Twombly Mar. 1970' (on the reverse)
gouache and wax crayon on board
27 5/8 x 34 3/8 in. (70.2 x 87.4 cm.)
Executed in 1970.
Provenance
Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1970

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné of Cy Twombly Drawings being prepared by Nicola Del Roscio.


Executed in 1970, Cy Twombly's Untitled (Roman Note 15) is a serene and beautifully realized example of the artist's celebrated gestural abstraction. Rendered in white, the work proliferates with lyrical but wordless writing, the soft indigo crayon meandering across the virgin, painted surface. Created simultaneously with Twombly's landmark Blackboard series, Untitled (Roman Note 15) translates onto card the period's distinctive intermingling of layers, the liberated swirls of wax crayon overlapping and interacting with one another. Washes of paint partially obscure passages of cursive script, leaving hand-written traces like shadows of history or lost memory.

In Untitled (Roman Note 15), the freedom and sensitivity of Twombly's composition appears to reveal the ruminations of the artist's mind. Recalling the immediacy and spontaneity of Jackson Pollock's all-over action painting, the artist's writing 'has neither syntax nor logic, but quivers with life' (P. Restany quoted in N. Serota, ed., Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2008, p. 19). In spite of the work's apparent formal simplicity, it offers a morass of emotion and human sensation. Indeed the hand drawn, cursive drawings resonate with the viewer as they roam around the surface of the work. As the artist himself once declared, the line can mutate 'from a soft thing, a dreamy thing, to something hard, something arid, something lonely, something ending, something beginning it's more like I am having an experience than making a picture' (C. Twombly interview with D. Sylvester quoted in Ibid, p. 14).

As early as 1960, Twombly had revealed his fascination with Leonardo da Vinci's studies of water referred to as the Deluge drawings. These mystical, flowing works on paper convey the energy of the tempestuous sea and it is this same feeling that is embodied in Twombly's improvised language. Untitled (Roman Note 15) also responds to the prevailing cultural climate, marrying the quiet simplicity of the white monochrome as furnished by Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman with the dynamism of the Action painters before him.

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