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Read moreDating from the first years of Twombly's life in Rome where he moved in 1957, to his richly productive period in the early 1960s to the mid-1970s, these five works on paper chart the high points of Twombly's early artistic career. The practice of working on paper is central to the artist's working methods: he has always used his drawings as a means to isolated the specific nature of his draughtsmanship, where, as Roland Barthes said, paper itself becomes the object of desire.
On his return to New York in 1953, following a travel scholarship to Europe and North Africa, Twombly, driven by what he had seen and experienced on his travels, sought now to thwart his natural skill as a draughtsman, attempting instead to access the simple directness he perceived in primitive art. His travel sketchbooks, crammed full of heavily worked drawings and notations on semi-transparenct sheets, were often inspired by the tribal objects he had seen in the Pigorini ethnographic museum in Rome. They formed a repository of marks and signs to which the artist would repeatedly return in his search for expressive immediacy. They were at once a memory aid, a point of origin, and the re-working through reproduction of some existing categorisation - a layered archive of graphic impressions.
In 1957, he left New York for Rome, abandoning the bubble of the New York art world, and the pervasive expectation that all art was moving forward in an inexorable march of progress. In Rome, Twombly was able to indulge his passion for the past, immersing himself in Greek and Roman antiquity, and the majestic panoramas, classical landscapes and sensuality of the High Renaissance. It was here that he developed his cryptic and utterly personal style of poetic 'hand-writing'.
In these drawings, Untitled of 1958 and 1961 respectively, Twombly plays with his new-found visual language, wrestling with the field of drawing - working and re-working, scratching and smudging, hastily erasing each mark, so that the lines dissolve into illegibility and become purely signs of a past action.
The later works from 1974 (Untitled) and 1973-76 (Menfi) demonstrate his exploration of autonomous rhythmical repetition, where narrative and form are abandoned in favour of nondescript linear forms dancing across the page. In Menfi, the name of the ancient Sicilian town is scrawled across the page, the artist attracted presumably by the town's most renowned inhabitant, musician and composer Antonio Palminteri, who pioneered counterpoint theory, the technique of combining single melodic lines or parts of equal importance in music, an approach to musical composition admired by Twombly, who plays with transmuting this device in visual terms in many of his drawings.
Attributing specific names to drawings and paintings is a distinctive feature of Twombly's work - by attaching his work to people, places and mythological figures, he jeopardises their autonomy. But these inscriptions also insure that we cannot view his works purely as visual objects - as the spectator we are consistently drawn into the conceptual and temporal activity of reading and referencing. This does not mean his work can be 'read' in the conventional sense: he turns words - names, lines of poetry - into marks, revelling in the incoherence and random association they provoke.
Cy Twombly (b. 1928)
Cy Twombly (b. 1928)
signed and dated 'Cy Twombly '61' (upper right)
pencil, coloured crayon and ball-point pen on paper
13¼ x 14in. (33.5 x 35.5cm.)
Executed in 1961
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Sale room notice
Please note that the correct title for this work is Delian Ode.
To be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Cy Twombly works on paper being prepared by Nicola Del Roscio, Rome.