Cy Twombly American Calligraphic Abstract Painter Dies In Rome

Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly the iconic American painter has died in a hospital in Rome,age 83, His death was announced by the director of the Lambert collection in the south of France.Twombly was living in Italy and suffered for several years from complications due to advanced cancer. He was hospitalised a few days ago and died peacefully this morning.

Edwin Parker (Cy) Twombly, Jr. was born April 25, 1928 he was an American artist well known for his large-scale, freely scribbled, calligraphic-style graffiti paintings, on solid fields of mostly gray, tan, or off-white colors. He exhibited his paintings worldwide.Twombly paintings blur the line between drawing and painting. Many of his best-known paintings of the late 1960s are reminiscent of a school blackboard on which someone has practiced cursive “e”s. His paintings of the late 1950s, early 1960s might be reminiscent of long term accumulation of bathroom graffiti. Twombly had at this point discarded painting figurative, representational subject-matter, citing the line or smudge  each mark with its own history  as its proper subject.Later, many of his paintings and works on paper moved into “romantic symbolism”, and their titles can be interpreted visually through shapes and forms and words. Twombly often quoted the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, as well as many classical myths and allegories in his works. Examples of this are his Apollo and The Artist and a series of eight drawings consisting solely of inscriptions of the word “VIRGIL”.

In 1953, Twombly served in the army as a cryptologist, an activity that left a distinct mark on his artistic style. From 1955 to 1959, he worked in New York, where he became a prominent figure among a group of artists including Robert Rauschenberg – with whom he was sharing a studio and Jasper Johns. Exposure to the emerging New York School purged figurative aspects from his work, encouraging a simplified form of abstraction. He became fascinated with tribal art, using the painterly language of the early 1950s to invoke primitivism, reversing the normal evolution of the New York School. His early sculptures, assembled from discarded objects, similarly cast their gaze back to Europe and North Africa. He stopped making sculptures in 1959 and did not take up sculpturing again until 1976.

Although his work resonates strongly with generations of younger artists, ranging from Brice Marden to Richard Prince to Tacita Dean to Patti Smith, it has a general propensity to polarise its audience between perplexity and unbridled admiration. (Remember the incident in summer 2007 of a woman planting a lipstick kiss on a Twombly canvas on show in Lyon?) Additionally, the critical and historical reception has seemed to describe two Twombly’s – one about form, the other about content.

Some writers have concentrated on the materiality of the artist’s mark as aggressive, often illegible graffiti; others have followed the classical allusions to ferret out the references. Two elements might serve as metaphors for the predominant interpretations: the floating disc of white paint labelled “clouds” standing for the poetic and mythological aspects, and the scatological heap of brown paint designating “earth”. However, Twombly’s painterly palimpsests trace the progressions through which form and content, text and image are inextricably linked.

For the last few years his work has been exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery, his painting were always produced in a lengthly and laborious manor sometimes taking years to complete. His small output has made the work scarce and expensive . Paintings by Twombly were selling for millions at the time of his death.

Cy Twombly April 25, 1928 – 5 July 2011

Top Photo by Artlyst ©


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