Cy Twombly


Influential American painter and sculptor, Edwin Parker ‘Cy’ Twombly (b. 1928, Lexington, Virginia, USA; d. 2011, Rome, Italy), is celebrated for his free-form, calligraphic painting and drawing. In 1947, he enrolled at the Boston Museum School before joining the Art Students League in New York. He then attended Black Mountain College, an experimental school in North Carolina, where he met Franz Kline.


Twombly first travelled to Europe and North Africa in 1952, visiting Rome, Florence and Marrakech, among other cities. In the 1950s, he made predominantly large, graffiti-like paintings incorporating scribbles on solid fields of grey, white or black. He practiced drawing in the dark, at night, to avoid any prescribed graphic strokes. Focused on the process of writing, script and language became his central motif. In 1957, he spent time in Italy, a place he returned to throughout his life. In Rome, he drew inspiration from the ancient Greco-Roman and contemporary graffiti that surrounded him. He established a vocabulary of signs and marks that read metaphorically, rather than according to any traditional iconography. In 1987, Twombly was elected a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and, in 2001, was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.


The Cy Twombly Foundation was established in 2005. In 2008, a major retrospective exhibition of his work opened at Tate Modern, London, touring to the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome.


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