Cy Twombly

American painter and artist (1928–2011)

Cy Twombly (April 25, 1928 - July 5, 2011) was an American painter, sculptor and photographer, creating abstract art. He belonged to the generation of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns; Twombly made the specific choice to live in Europe, Italy - after 1957.

Twombly, c. 2009-10: ' Iron curtain of the 'Wiener Staatsoper'

Quotes of Cy Twombly edit

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes of Cy Twombly
Twombly, c. 1995: design of his poster for Berlin; printed
Commemorative plaque for Cy Twombly in Santa Maria in Vallicella, Rome. The Latin inscription says: 'The Roman Oratorians and the relatives and friends recommend Cy Twombly, by civil name Edwin Parker Twombly, the famous painter and sculptor, born in Lexington, 25 April 1928, deceased in Rome, 5 July 2011, who loved this Vallicella church and benefited it generously, to pious memory, praying that his soul may partake of the splendour of the divine beauty and his mortal remains may rest in peace'

1950 - 1960 edit

  • To paint involves a certain crisis, or at least a crucial moment of sensation or release.By crisis by no means limited to a morbid state, but could just as easily be an ecstatic impulse.
    • Quote from: 'Stuart Brent presents Cy Twombly', ed. N. de Roscao, 1951
  • I'm drawn to the primitive, the ritual and fetish elements.
    • Quote of Twombly in: 'Editions du Regard', January 1952, p.13; as cited in 'A monograph', M. Whittall, London,Thames & Hudson, 2005ns du Regard. p.
  • For myself the past is the source (for all art is vitally contemporary).
    • In: 'Editions du Regard', January 1952, p.13; as quoted in 'A monograph', M. Whittall, London,Thames & Hudson, 2005ns du Regard. p. 9
  • In painting it is the forming of the image.
    • In: 'In painting it is the forming of the image', Cy Twombly, 'L'Esperienza moderna', 1957; as quoted in Cy Twombly, a monograph, Richard Leeman / picture research Isabelle d’Hauteville. London, 2005 p. 239
  • Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate — it is the sensation of its own realization. [a written art note by Twombly on a painting he created in 1957].
    • Quote of Twombly in 'Writings', Flash Art International, Laura Cherubini, October 2008 (translation from Italian: Beatrice Barbareschi)

1980 - 1999 edit

  • I think of myself as a Romantic Symbolist.
    • Quote, 1994, from Cy Twombly, a monograph, Richard Leeman / picture research Isabelle d’Hauteville. London, 2005; p. 103
  • I show things in flux.
    • In: Cy Twombly, a monograph, Richard Leeman / picture research Isabelle d’Hauteville. London, 2005; p. 35
  • I respond to the Greek love of metamorphosis.
    • In: Cy Twombly, a monograph, Richard Leeman / picture research Isabelle d’Hauteville. London, 2005; p. 233

2000 - 2011 edit

  • I work in waves because I'm impatient. It has to be done. I take liberties.
    • Quote, as cited by Serota N. in the interview 'Cy Twombly: History behind the Thought' , Exhitbition catalogue: Cycles & Seasons, Tate Modern, London 2008
  • When I work I work very fast, but preparing the work can take any length.
    • Remark at the 'photo-exhibition Cy Twombly', museum Marseille, Amsterdam, Autumn 2008

'Cy Twombly, 2000', by David Sylvester (June 2000) edit

Quotes from: the interview: 'Cy Towmbly, 2000', June 2000; published in Interviews with American Artists by David Sylvester, David Sylvester, Chatto and Windus – London 2001
  • Probably even more than the architecture I'd be drawn to landscape. That's my first love, landscape.. .All kinds of landscape, if it's not cluttered up and vandalised. Yesterday we went out to Blenheim, and I love the flatness and the trees. I like all kinds. And where I'm from, the central valley of Virginia, is not one of the most exciting landscapes in the world, but it's one of the most beautiful. It's very beautiful because it has everything. It has mountains, there are streams, there are fields, beautiful trees. And architecture sits very well in it.. .And I've always lived in the south of Italy, because it’s more excitable. It's volcanic. The land affects people naturally, that's part of the characteristics, for me, of a people, in a sense.
    • p. 173
  • I knew a poet who was totally ignorant about botany. And I said: you can't be a poet without knowing any botany or plants and things like that; it's impossible, that's the first thing you should know.
    • p. 173
  • I've found when you get old you must return to certain things in the beginning, or things you have a sentiment for or something. Because your life closes up in so many ways or doesn't become as flexible or exciting or whatever you want to call it. You tend to be nostalgic. And I think about my boats. It's more complicated than that, but also it's going out and also there's a lot of references to crossing over. But the thing of the Nile boat in Winter's Passage: Luxor was about the wonderful thing, the lazy thing, of being two or three months in Luxor by the river. It was just that, it explains a winter passage. From a certain point to the other side: it's like the Greek boat that ferries you over to the other world. That sculpture didn't have it. But sometimes the large painting in Houston does have it. It's a passage through everything.
    • p. 174
  • And I am very happy to have the boat motif because, when I grew up, in summer with my parents we were always in Massachusetts, and I was always by the sea. You know, sometimes little boys love cars, but I had a particular passion for boats, and now I live by the sea. For sure, it is a passage, but it's also very fascinating for lots of things. When you get interested in something you can find out a lot about things. You might meet people who are interested in one subject or another, like they collect palms. I've found people from all over the world who were fanatical about palms, which you wouldn't know unless you were interested in palms. And the sea: because, if you've noticed, the sea is white three quarters of the time, just white – early morning. Only in the fall does it get blue, because the haze is gone. The Mediterranean [where Twombly is living later in his life], at least – the Atlantic is brown – is just always white, white, white. And then, even when the sun comes up, it becomes a lighter white.. .Not because I paint it white; I'd have painted it white even if it wasn't, but I am always happy that I might have. It's something that has other consciousness behind it.
    • pp. 174-175
  • It's a sort of infantile thing, painting. Paint in a sense is a certain infantile thing. I mean in the handling. I start out using a brush but then I can't take the time because the idea doesn't correspond, it gets stuck when the brush goes out of paint in a certain length of time. So I have to go back and by then I might have lost the rest of it. So I take my hand and I do it. Or I have those wonderful things that came in later: paint sticks.. .So I had to find things that I could use, like my hands or the paint sticks.. .And I did those charts, big palettes.. .two or three paintings with palettes and all of the colours – pink, flesh, brown, red for blood. And I think with most painters you can think and it can change very fast, the impetus of what something is. It's instinctive in a certain kind of painting, not as if you were painting an object or special things, but it's like coming through the nervous system. It's like a nervous system. It's not described, it's happening. The feeling is going on with the task.
    • p. 179
  • To me, Pollock is the height of American painting. It's very lyrical. Gorky, who is very passionate, can copy a drawing or take a drawing and copy it exactly as a painting, and Miro can too, it's amazing. Miro can do a drawing to paint and that's another training in a sense. So there's a certain mannerism that comes in both of them [three], and probably everything becomes obvious in time. But I don't have that. The line is illustrated or the colour. I'm sure it has great feeling when they're doing it, but it's more towards defining something. It has a certain clarity because it's a complex thing. I'm a painter and my whole balance is not having to think about things. So all I think about is painting. It's the instinct for the placement where all that happens. I don't have to think about it. So I don't think of composition; I don’t think of colour here and there. Sometimes I alter something after. So all I could think is the rush.. .I cannot make a picture unless everything is working. It's like a state.
    • p. 179
  • It's more like I'm having an experience than making a picture. So I've never had anyone around. I never have. People are different, but I have to really be with no interference. And it takes me hours. Painting a picture is a very short thing if it goes well, but the sitting and thinking.. .I usually go off on stories that have nothing to do with the painting, and sometimes I sit in the opposite room to where I work. If I can get a good hot story I can paint better, but sometimes I'm not thinking about the painting, I'm thinking about the subject. Lots of times I'll sit in another room and then I might just go in. It takes a lot of freedom. I'm working for two years on a subject now: ten paintings, and that can carry on for two years. I worked last summer and I started this summer and with just the simplest motif I just can't seem to do it. And everything slowed down.
    • pp. 179-180

Quotes about Cy Twombly edit

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes about Cy Twombly
  • Cy Twombly was the first [artist], Robert Rauschenberg shared ideas with]. But Cy and I were not critical. I did my work and he did his. Cy's direction was always so personal that you could only discuss it after the fact.
    • Quote of Robert Rauschenberg; as cited in 'The Art of Code', Jonathan Katz; c. 1993; from Significant Others: Creativity and Intimate Partnership, ed. Whitney Chadwick and Isabelle de Courtivron, 1993 - Thames and Hudson Ltd.
  • For Twombly, the first thing is the line. It is something deliberately artificial and artistic. He has worked on his line, has made it supple enough to convey form, pace, depth and much else besides (Catlo Huber). The line, which Paul Klee called a path, a guide through the imaginary territory of the picture, becomes in Twombly's hands, a vibrant, autonomous, complex 'self' and 'other' that roams through wider and wider landscapes, spaces and processes. Or, as Twombly himself says: each line is the present expedience of its own inherent history..
  • The curator [Varnedoe] somewhat underplays the vast impact of Twombly's early relationship with Rauschenberg.. .Varnedoe reminds us that the two artists met in the spring of 1951 after Twombly moved to New York and entered classes at the Art Students league, where the slightly older Rauschenberg [born in 1925] was also enrolled. Varnedoe maintains that it was probably Twombly who turned Rauschenberg on to Schwitters, rather than vice versa. But it was clearly Rauschenberg who convinced Twombly to join him at Black Mountain College in North Carolina for the summer of 1951. At Black Mountain the young artist was exposed to the teachings not only of Ben Shahn, whom he emulated in his spindly graphic style, and Robert Motherwell, who was one of his strongest early defenders and wrote the first catalogue essay about him, but John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Charles Olson and Franz Kline.[2] A certain Cagean sense of flux, together with a kind of I Ching-influenced orientalism, would remain an undercurrent in Twombly's work, distancing it from the more purposeful and willfully heroic strokes of the Abstract Expressionists.
  • But on longer consideration the artist's role [of Twombly] as teacher can be seen as part of his ivory-tower position, a stance of highly selective accessibility that he has cultivated over the years. Since the late '50s younger artists have sought him out in Rome, including Jannis Kounellis in the late '50s, Alighiero e Boetti in the late '60s and Francesco Clemente in the '70s. Brice Marden, having worked for Rauschenberg in the '60s, was early drawn into the Twombly circle. In the early '80s, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Donald Baechler, James Brown, Julian Schnabel and w:Terry Winters all learned much from his art. (Twombly will reportedly appear in the same area as [Terry] Winters and [Brice] Marden in the 1995 Whitney Biennial.) Ross Bleckner's signature '80s image of chandeliers doubles back to Twombly's lost chandelier paintings of the early '50s, which Rauschenberg described in an interview with Barbara Rose. Both Philip Taaffe and Michele Zalopany followed Twombly's expatriate steps to Italy, where they became friends of the artist. In the '90s Suzanne McClelland [see A.i.A., Oct. '94] and Pat Steir each defined her stance in relation to his work. Thus at least three generations of very different artists have studied at the 'School of Twombly'.

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