Cy Twombly - Contemporary Art Part I New York Monday, November 8, 2010 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Carole Christensen Fine Art, Sausalito; Acquired from the above by the previous owner; Sotheby’s, New York, Contemporary Art Day Auction, May 15, 2008, lot 161; Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “…light and airy as he opened up windows and caught inside and outside precisely at these points with perfect transparency.” (H. Bastian, Cy Twombly: Paintings 1976, Volume 1, Berlin, 1978, p.17)
    Residing in Italy since the late 1950’s Twombly embraces both the ancient and modern worlds.  Renowned throughout the globe, in particular for his “Roma” body of work, known for its light and airy pencil strokes and its fragments of paint, Twombly braids together Roman antiquity with a strand of the contemporary moment; two characteristics the city of Rome offers to any artist.
    Developing a neo-classical form of painting and drawing, Twombly combined calligraphy and the brushstroke, developing a visual language unique from what his peers were accomplishing back in the United States. The artist’s years in Rome capture on paper a raw energy and seamless poetry in a graffiti-like manner with isolating gaps of pencil and ink. The outcome of Untitled, 1964 becomes a visual experience emotionally engaging the past of antiquity with a sensation of walking the streets of Rome in 1964.
    The inconsistent composition in this particular piece is simultaneously raw and elegant, freeing the work and imbuing it with its own language echoing words of tragedies in the ancient past to breaths of new, yet, nostalgic sounds. In the present lot the tradition of painting is challenged and replaced with ink and pencil.  Twombly’s Roma drawings transcend artistic boundaries with the dispersed use of calligraphic instruments on paper allowing for grandeur and simplicity - giving off the mythical message found in the artist’s work during this time.   It is this revealing nouveau body of work that would lead the artist to be invited to the 1965 Venice Biennale a year after the present drawing was completed.  It is also this body of work that many art historians consider “the most impressive, most emotionally wrought of Twombly’s career” (K. Varnedoe, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, New York, 1994, pp.34-35)..
    …it floats it drifts between the desires which in subtle fashion, guides the hand, and politeness, which is the discreet refusal of any captivating ambition. If we wish to locate this ethic, we would have to seek very far, outside painting outside the West, outside history, at the very limit of meaning and say, with the Tao to King:
    He produces without appropriating anything, He acts without expecting anything, His work accomplished, he does not get attached to it, And since he is not attached to it, His work will remain. (R. Barthes, Cy Twombly Painting and Drawings 1954-1977, The Whitney Museum of American Art, p. 22) 

  • 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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Ink, graphite and colored pencil on paper.
28 5/8 x 39 3/4 in. (72.7 x 101 cm).
Signed and dated “Cy Twombly Aug 1964” upper right.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $698,500

Contemporary Art Part I

8 November 2010
New York