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


Cy Twombly (b. 1928)
signed, titled, dated and inscribed 'For Gian Enzo Cy Twombly May 71' (on the reverse)
housepaint and wax crayon on paper
34½ x 27½ in. (87.6 x 69.9 cm.)
Painted in 1971.
Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome
Private collection, Tivoli
Galleria Cardi, Milan, 1989
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
Acquired from the above by the present owner
M. Carboni, "Arte a Roma e a Milano nei lontani anni '60," La Republica, 22 March 1994, p. 17 (illustrated in color).
Milan, Galleria Bergamini; Milan, Galleria Seno; Milan, Galleria Tega; Rome, Galleria L'Isola; Rome, La Nuova Pesa and Naples, Galleria Dina Carola, Anni Sessanta, Rigori e Utopia a Milano, Colore e Segno a Roma, March-December 1994, n.p. (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Cy Twombly catalogue raisonné of works on paper being prepared by N. Del Roscio.

Christie's is honored to present an important collection of works by Cy Twombly from one of the most informed collections of contemporary art in Europe. Representing the best examples of the artist's work from four decades, this grouping superbly demonstrates Twombly's deep appreciation for mark making. In addition to the present lot, we will offer a further four works spanning three decades of Twombly's work in the November 11 sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art. He saw ancient graffiti on trips he made to Europe and North Africa in the early1950s, which inspired him. Humanity's constant search for our place in time fascinated Twombly, and he became profoundly interested in antiquity and classical civilization. He has consequently spent much of his career refining the fundamental art of making a mark, resulting in some of the most exciting and intoxicating work produced in Europe during the Post-War period.

Untitled (1971) is a magnificent painting on paper, a supreme example of Twombly's flowing and calligraphic style. In 1966, the artist began a series of striking works using monochromatic grey grounds as the basis of his work. His resulting Blackboard series contains some of the most celebrated works of his career, and the present lot is a superb example of this period's rich intermingling layers. Twombly begins with liberated swirls of wax crayon, and then covers these with a layer of translucent grey housepaint. Then, using the end of his wooden paintbrush, Twombly scrapes through the paint layer to reveal briefly the marks that lie underneath. This alternation between the visible and the hidden, the clear and the concealed is one of the unifying themes of Twombly's work.

The reverse of this work is inscribed "To Gian Enzo", a dedication to the legendary Italian gallery owner Gian Enzo Sperone. Twombly had his first solo exhibition at the Sperone Gallery in 1971, the year the present lot was painted, and continued to exhibit with him for nearly two decades. For fifty years the Sperone Gallery has dedicated itself to exhibiting some of the most radical and innovative art forms. From Pop Art and Arte Povera, to Minimalism and Conceptual Art, the Sperone Gallery has been the home for an exciting engagement between the Italian art scene and the rest of the world.

To accompany this masterwork, the November 11 sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art is proud to present a further selection of works, which represent three of the most important decades in Twombly's career. Untitled (1953) has strong connections with the artist's first trip to North Africa the previous year. On a beige background, Twombly laid down a series of exquisitely delicate marks that coalesce into a horizon line, emerging mirage-like from the paper's surface. Four years later, when he drew Untitled (1957) a greater physicality had entered his work. Twombly had begun using his bare hands as direct instruments in his image, forging a more immediate connection between the artist and the mark on the paper. This resulted in a more physical and sensual work, with a greater range of depth and color.

A decade later, these physical forces are still present in Untitled (1971), a dramatic and engrossing work related to Twombly's celebrated Bolsena series. Sharing the same internal struggle between opposing forces as its older sibling, the work mixes geometric shapes, erotic forms, words and numbers, all fighting for supremacy in the maelstrom of this energetic work. Finally, Untitled (Captiva) foreshadows an important series of works the artist embarked on in 1975 which featured Greek gods represented by sheets of collaged paper bearing an energetic flourish of color, signifying the artist's creative spirit.

Twombly's unique language of simplified gestures and forms, represented in all these outstanding works, alludes to a higher state of being, transcending the finite realism of pictorial materiality. Such indecipherable and delicate marks are rich with lyrical gestures and sweeping movements that reach out across the surface, evoking a landscape strewn with the detritus of subconscious thoughts. Simultaneously, Twombly imbues his art with a deeper, more enigmatic rhetoric of meaning and associations that we may only fleetingly touch upon as an insight into the ever-elusive artist's mind.

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