This work will be included in the Catalogue Raisonné of Cy Twombly Drawings being prepared by Nicola Del Roscio.
In Untitled, Cy Twombly's calligraphic lines lyrically unfold across the picture surface. Executed in 1970, this work is a characteristic example of the artist's abstract gestures. Drawn in airy blue script, Twombly's marks follow the lines of written text but continually avoid legibility. With graceful simplicity, Twombly transforms the picture surface into an arena of time and space; he captures the ephemeral gesture of his own signature and simultaneously evokes an eternal and universal rhythm. "Each line now 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 indulgencies rather than an abstract totality of visual perception" (C. Twombly quoted in K. Varnedoe, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1994, p. 27).
With tools traditionally reserved for writing, Twombly inscribes wax crayon on pale paper colored with grey house paint. Spontaneously drawn, the artist's fluid script resembles waxy ribbons of blue, which are accented by faint echoes of similar lines to reveal his artistic process. Created simultaneously with Twombly's landmark Blackboard series, Untitled renders the artist's distinctive layered lines in fresh, less prescriptive form. As art historian Roberta Smith noted, "It is more like handwriting than a typical painting touch" (R. Smith, "The Great Mediator," Cy Twombly, H. Szeeman, (ed.), Munich, 1987, p. 16).
Twombly's abstract patterns of movement evoke the recurring forms within nature. As early as 1960, Twombly revealed his fascination with Leonardo da Vinci's "Deluge" drawings, which study the force and energy of tides and bodies of water. Also rendered on paper, Twombly's irregular, curvilinear patterns recall waves or ripples of water, especially with the artist's use of blue pigment. Twombly's raw, inscrutable lines also resemble the furious scrawls and cryptic mirror-writing of Leonardo's Codices, which record his inventions and theorize on natural phenomena. In Untitled, Twombly similarly converges the natural and rational spheres with the creative one.
Living in New York in the 1950s, Twombly found his most lasting stylistic influences amongst the action painters. The artist began studying art at the Art Students League in 1951, where he met the like-minded painter, Robert Rauschenberg, who persuaded Twombly to enroll in Black Mountain College that same year. Twombly studied under such luminaries as Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell, absorbing the fundamentals of Abstract Expressionism. With friends Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Twombly was a key figure in the generation of American artists who explored new painterly signifiers after the emergence of Abstract Expressionism. By conflating text and image, Untitled calls attention to both forms of representation, articulated according to our view of the world.
Twombly's deep interest in antiquity stems from his tour of Europe and North Africa with Rauschenberg. As the title of his 1970 work suggests, Twombly was especially taken with Rome, and moved there two years later in 1957. Captivated by the continuity between the classical and the modern, he found artistic inspiration in the city's ancient texts and wall paintings, as well as the street frescoes and graffiti. Like a microcosm of the Italian city, Untitled creates new marks, re-clarified with the artist's sleight of hand, and simultaneously references historical precedents. Thus, Twombly presents his work as a personal and universal palimpsest, recording the ebb and flow of the artist's own gestures and those of the past. Untitled also responds to its prevailing cultural climate: painted in New York at the height of the Minimalist movement, Twombly marries the quiet simplicity of the white monochrome as furnished by Agnes Martin and Robert Ryman with the dynamism and signature markings of the Action painters before him.