Cy Twombly

Nationality: American

Birth Year: 1928

Death Year: 2011

Place of Birth: Lexington, VA

Biography

Edwin Parker Twombly Jr. was an American artist whose Abstract Expressionist signature lay in “mark-making” through practices of graffiti and calligraphy against color-neutral backgrounds.

Early Life

Twombly was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1928. His father, with whom he shares his name, was a baseball player and sports coach. His family was both liberal and financially secure enough for young Twombly to receive private painting classes and lectures on art history by Spanish artist Pierre Duara.

After graduating from Lexington High School in 1946, Twombly enrolled at the Darlington School in Georgia. He spent the following summer at an art colony in Maine and, in the fall of 1947, enrolled at the Museum School in Boston. After finishing his initial apprenticeships, in 1950, Twombly attended the Art Students League of New York on a tuition scholarship. The institution was easily the world center of Abstract Expressionism at the time and he was exposed to both the works and personalities of critical darlings Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline.

From 1951 to 1952, Twombly attended the now defunct Black Mountain College in North Carolina, studying under Robert Motherwell as well as rector Charles Olson, whose fascination for classic, emblematic imagery held some influence.

The Influence of Travel

Twombly’s first exhibition took place at the Kootz Gallery in New York. The show was enough of a success for him to receive a travel grant from the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts in Virginia, and in 1952, he set off for Rome and Morocco with his friend and fellow Expressionist Robert Rauschenberg. It is unsurprising that he would choose to visit places of historical interest, as his work often alludes to a longing for times past.

Even though journeying through northern Africa was Rauschenberg’s plan, the tour affected Twombly on a deeper level than he expected. He returned with drawings of ethnic patterns and intricate studies of materials, producing highly emotive canvasses whose titles referred directly to his travels.

Having encountered cultural differences for the first time and in reaction to the biases and superstitions about left and right, Twombly began limiting the movement of his hands while painting, pretending it was his left instead of his right. This was an act that ran parallel to Surrealist ideas — by refusing to make use of his own technical skill, he eliminated control of his own creation.

The Transatlantic Move

Twombly was drafted into the army in 1953 where he worked as a cryptologist, often working in the dark. It was during this time that he held a joint exhibition in New York’s Stable Gallery with Rauschenberg, which was critically panned as one of the poorest shows of the season. He remained true to his muse though, and defiantly added an expletive or two to mostly abstract paintings.

In 1957, he moved to Rome where he met and later married Tatiana Franchetti, an Italian artist and baroness. He settled in a villa on the Via di Monserrato and spent much of his time by the coastline, painting the Mediterranean without a shade of blue. His work at this period is marked by its minimalism and evocativeness.

Over the next decade, Twombly focused on many literary and mythical subjects. A grand lyricism appeared amongst erotic and earthly representations. Between 1967 and 1971, he produced a series on gray grounds that appear to be abrupt, colorless scribbles like that of chalk on a blackboard. But the words themselves are illusory.

Life and Legacy

Despite being compared with Rauschenberg and printmaking artist Jasper Johns Jr., Twombly was distinct in his own right. His craft of “mark making” has been described as primitive with powerful elements of myth and storytelling interweaved in them. After settling in Italy in the late 1950s, Twombly moved away from Expressionism towards large-scale, romantic symbolism.

Twombly was given several awards and honors, most notably the Praemium Imperiale in 1996, the Golden Lion at the 49th Venice Biennale, and the title of Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur by the government of France in 2010.

After a long fight with cancer, Twombly died at a hospital in Rome in 2011. He was 83 years old. His art is permanently housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

Date of Birth: April 25, 1928

Date of Death: July 5, 2011

Place of Birth: Lexington, Virginia

Occupation: Painter, sculptor and calligraphy artist

Movement: Modern

Education: Black Mountain College

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ART PRICES

LOT SOLD (1990 - 2009)

996

MAX PRICE

$7,750,000

AVG PRICE

$1,984,509

TOTAL SALES (1990 - 2009)

$93,271,956

 Natural History, Part II: Some Trees Of Italy by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Natural History, Part II: Some Trees Of Italy

Christie's, London

March 18, 2015

$74,100  USD

 Sarajevo by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Sarajevo

Auctionata, New York

February 21, 2015

$6,000  USD

 Untitled by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Untitled

Phillips, London

February 12, 2015

$742,519  USD

 Untitled by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Untitled

Christie's, London

February 12, 2015

$225,449  USD

 Nine Discourses On Commodus / By Cy Twombly / At Leo Castelli by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Nine Discourses On Commodus / By Cy Twombly / At L

Swann Galleries, New York

February 12, 2015

$4,420  USD

 Untitled by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Untitled

Christie's, London

February 11, 2015

$917,125  USD

 Death of Pompey (Rome) by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Death of Pompey (Rome)

Christie's, London

February 11, 2015

$6,604,065  USD

 Portrait of Alvise Di Robilant by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Portrait of Alvise Di Robilant

Christie's, London

February 11, 2015

 USD

 Untitled (New York City) by Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly

Untitled (New York City)

Christie's, London

February 11, 2015

$29,987,340  USD

News

On the Block: What to Look for at Auction in November

By Judd Tully,Art+Auction | November 3, 2014

With the global art market continuing to perform like a race-proven thoroughbred, this season offers a number of blue-chip trophy contenders, led by a fabulous, rare-to-market Alberto Giacometti...

Big Night at Christie's Caps London Contemporary Week

By Judd Tully | February 13, 2014

Watch Judd's video preview of Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary sale, HERE. London—Powered by a runaway Francis Bacon portrait, Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary...

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By BLOUIN ARTINFO | December 24, 2013

SEE SLIDESHOWIt’s surely no coincidence that the higher into the stratosphere art prices go, the more frequent lawsuits over copyright, ownership, and authenticity become. So this year saw plenty...

Warhol Disaster Wins Sotheby's $380.6M Night, Record for the House [VIDEO]

By Judd Tully | November 14, 2013

NEW YORK — Powered by a record-breaking Andy Warhol disaster painting, Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening sale made an impressive $380,642,000. It represents the highest price achieved for...

PREVIEW: Highlights From the November Contemporary Art Auctions

By Judd Tully,Art+Auction | November 11, 2013

Last week, ARTINFO.com ran the first installment of Art+Auction's November auction preview coverage, with the November Impressionist & Modern Art sales...

Dia Founders Sue Dia, Heirs' Lost Liebermann Turns Up on TV, and More

By BLOUIN ARTINFO | November 8, 2013

– Dia Founders Sue Dia: Heiner Friedrich and Fariha de Menil Friedrich, two of the original founders of the Dia Art Foundation, are going to court in an effort to stop the sale of $20 million...

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SLIDESHOWS

Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Evening

By Regina Mogilevskaya | February 12, 2015

Sotheby's London Contemporary Art Evening Auction

By Regina Mogilevskaya | February 11, 2015

A Preview of Christie's November 12 Sale

By Regina Mogilevskaya | November 12, 2014

Events

Cy Twombly: Treatise on the Veil

Sep 26, 2014 - Jan 25, 2015

The Morgan Library and Museum, New York

On the Bowery, 1971

Apr 14 - Jun 9, 2012

Westwood Gallery, New York

    View More