Cy Twombly - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Wednesday, May 13, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria La Tartaruga, Rome
    Private Collection, Rome
    Galerie Klewan, Munich
    Sonnabend Gallery, New York
    Peder Bonnier Gallery, New York
    Galerie Christian Fayt, Knokke
    Galerie Folker Skulima, Berlin
    Holly Solomon Gallery, New York
    Germans van Eck, New York
    Wouter F. Germans, New York
    Jean Zimmermann, New York
    Galerie Christian Fayt, Knokke
    Hottlet Collection, Antwerp
    André Simoens Gallery, Brussels.
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 2006

  • Literature

    H. Bastian, Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume I 1948-1960, Munich: Schirmer-Mosel, 1992, no. 155, p. 249 (illustrated)
    A. Taschen, New Paris Interiors, United States: Taschen, 2008, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realization.” Cy Twombly, 1957

    By 1960, the year in which Untitled was painted, Cy Twombly was residing on the Via di Monserrato in Rome. He had become personally and artistically enveloped by the grandeur and majesty of the ancient city. For Twombly, the Eternal City sparked a newly found interest in the history of visual mark marking, and the present lot, Untitled, 1960, reflects the artist’s absorption of his new and culturally vibrant environment. Greco-Roman history became a pre-dominant theme for Twombly, whose graffiti-like, colorful strokes, trace the lines of classical mythology and history, while their rapid execution is marked by an outpouring of passionate emotion. The artist explains that “The line is the feeling, from a soft thing, a dreamy thing, to something hard, something arid, something lonely, something ending, something beginning. “(Cy Twombly “Interview with David Sylvester” in David Sylvester, Interviews with American Artists, London, 2001, pp. 178-179).

    Twombly’s lyrical lines, scratchings, numbers and diagrams allude to a delicate, hauntingly legible narrative that lies beneath the explosive and frenzied surface. Untitled, 1960, holds several scenes executed upon a soft white canvas. A vertical scribble, rendered in a slate gray, begins the composition along the left hand corner, giving way to a sole line of cerulean blue. A fury of graphite lines, traverse and dissect the canvas, beginning at center left where a single graphite line curves up, opening up to form an elongated teardrop, filled with a light pink, blush color. Four ovals fan out around the pink pond, numbered accordingly: 1, 2, 3, 4, directly below, in graphite, there stands a cutaway drawing of stairs, each step, accordingly counted: 1, 2, 3, 4.

    By deciphering these visual clues, Twombly has carefully and craftily drawn us a beautiful map. The original graphite line represents the Via del Teatro di Marcello in Rome, which converges around the Piazza D’Aracoeli. The “Steps” as inscribed by Twombly harks back to his earlier visit to Rome with his long-time friend Robert Rauschenberg, who created a series of black and white photographs entitled Cy + Roman Steps (I-V). This series of five photographs depicts “Twombly descending the iconic marble steps of the Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli. In the first photograph, Twombly’s feet and lower legs are barely visible near the top of the composition, appearing minuscule and insignificant in contrast to the dramatically rising steps. As the sequence progresses, Twombly descends the steps and approaches the camera’s lens, growing larger and gaining detail with each frame. Twombly and Rauschenberg had become intimately involved just before leaving New York. The unmistakably erotic charge of the progression—centered, after all, on Twombly’s groin—offers us a window on photographer and subject coming to terms with their new relationship against the backdrop of Rome.” (Cy + Roman Steps (I-V), 1952, Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis Wattis, By incorporating these same stairs, a part of his relational past, as a painterly motif almost ten years later, Twombly collapses, through line, his past and his 1960 present, in Rome, with his new Italian family.

    Twombly’s flat pictorial plane sets the stage upon which his rapid, colorful forms dance as they enter and leave the scene. Like Rauschenberg’s documentation of Twombly’s slow sequential entrance into his photographic field, Twombly’s paintings delve into the visual capturing of a line’s series of consecutive movements. Twombly has described the “feeling of the line” as an all-encompassing state, one of physical balance and passionate expression. Twombly stripped away any sense of pre-meditation, any learned skill to expose an unprocessed mark, one which travels directly from the heart to the hand; “not as if you were painting an object or special things, coming through the nervous system. It's like a nervous system. It's not described, it's happening" (C. Twombly, "Interview with David Sylvester, 2000," in D. Sylvester, Interviews with American Artists, London, 2001).

    Untitled, 1960, references the classical past and its endurance into the present, while also revealing a raw expression or feeling, one liberated from the past. “To encounter the past is to put into question the present. This sense of awe and perplexity at overlaid tenses and times and encountering places only previously known in the imagination…offered for Twombly a palimpsest of past, present and future; layered, intertwined and interpenetrating each other like archaeological strata” (Nicholas Cullinan in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Modern, Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, 2008, p. 74) Untitled, 1960, allows the past to seep out in the midst of the present through melodic line. The stairs, now physically close to the artist’s new Italian life, still stand as a faraway past, one long gone but released in order to continue building upward. “Stairs” stands as a locational intersection, which Twombly utilizes to, in effect, map and measure the progressional steps of his own life line; as the artist explains, “each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realization.” (C. Twombly, “Documenti di una nuova figurazione: Toti Scialoja, Gastone Novelli, Pierre Alechinsky, Achille Perilli, Cy Twombly,” L’Esperienza moderna, no. 2, August- September 1957, p. 32)

  • Artist Biography

    Cy Twombly

    American • 1928 - 2011

    Cy Twombly emerged in the mid-1950s alongside New York artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. While at first developing a graffiti-like style influenced by Abstract Expressionist automatism–having notably studied under Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell at the legendary Black Mountain College between 1951 and 1952–Twombly was a prominent figure in the new generation of artists that challenged the abstract orthodoxy of the New York School. Twombly developed a highly unique pictorial language that found its purest expression upon his life-defining move to Rome in 1957. Simultaneously invoking classical history, poetry, mythology and his own contemporary lived experience, Twombly's visual idiom is distinguished by a remarkable vocabulary of signs and marks and the fusion of word and text. 

    Cy Twombly produced graffiti-like paintings that were inspired by the work of Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. His gestural forms of lines, drips and splattering were at first not well-received, but the artist later became known as the leader of the estrangement from the Abstract Expressionism movement. Full of energy and rawness, Twombly's pieces are reminiscent of childhood sketches and reveal his inspiration from mythology and poetry.

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wax crayon, lead pencil, oil based house paint on canvas
37 1/2 x 39 in. (95.2 x 99.2 cm)
Signed, inscribed and dated "Cy Twombly Roma MCMXXXXXX" middle right.

$2,000,000 - 3,000,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Evening Sale 14 May 2015 7pm