Executed in 1981-82, Untitled dates from a period of important change in Twombly's art. This was a period in which paper became his preferred support, as witnessed by the small number of paintings from these years and the large number of series of works on paper. At the same time, this was a period in which colour became increasingly dominant in his work. The exuberant scrawls of crayon that illuminate the two segments of Untitled reveal the almost Impressionistic quality that would come to characterise much of his work from this period. In part influenced directly by nature, in part reflecting his own increasing versatility in working with many colours and tapping into the complex, subliminal emotional reactions that these colours can demand, Twombly uses colour both to dazzle and to engage us.
Twombly's works also underwent a thematic shift during this period, as reflected by many of their titles. History now often replaced mythology as inspiration and content. It can be no coincidence that this artist, this living link between the American avant garde and the Old World of Europe, has chosen to write the date of execution 'July 14' across the top of the larger section. The Quatorze Juillet, the date of the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, is both celebrated and reviled as the end of one era, the beginning of another. Is Untitled an explosive, firework-like celebration of this, or is the striking crimson crescent that is echoed from one section of the work into the other some reference to the decapitations that would remove, only a few years later, so much of the ancien rigime?
Twombly's works seldom provide an answer to such questions. With its mixture of oil, crayon and pencil, Untitled is at once tactile and intangible, the colours a vigourous mirage that at once conjures the frenetic action of the artist and yet eludes our understanding. While showing a way forward artistically, Twombly looks back as a historian, as a chronicler of the world, as a medium through whom the breath of the past is given a new lyrical life and importance.