Cy Twombly - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Monday, February 8, 2016 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Paul Bianchini, New York

  • Exhibited

    Columbia, McKissick Museum, A Campus Collects, 1980
    Columbia, McKissick Museum, Paper Pleasures: Five Centuries of Drawings and Watercolors, June-November 1992

  • Literature

    Paper Pleasures: Five Centuries of Drawings and Watercolors, exh. cat. McKissick Museum, Columbia, 1992

    This work will be included in the forthcoming Addenda to the Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of Drawings being prepared by Nicola Del Roscio.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed on the Caribbean island of St Martin’s, while staying as a guest of Jasper Johns, Untitled, 1969 exemplifies Cy Twombly’s visually distinctive vocabulary. Edwin Parker Twombly, or Cy as he was better known, started his career with a formal artistic training in 1950’s America. Entering the art world alongside contemporaries such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Twombly had a lifelong association with many New York School artists, and yet remained on the group’s periphery. Many have associated this detachment with his move from America to Italy in the late 1950’s. Despite his absence from the vogue New York art scene, a voracious traveller, Twombly spent much of his time on the road drawing strong influences from his ever-changing surroundings and thus developing his deeply personal pictorial vernacular. Twombly’s life long assistant, Nicola Del Roscio, referred to this depth in his work succinctly as a ‘classic mind nourished by a globalised intellect.’ (Nicola Del Roscio, Cy Twombly Drawings Cat. Rais. Vol 4 1964-1969, Schirmer/Mosel, Gagosian Gallery…)

    Perhaps, Twombly’s greatest influence was a stint as a cryptologist in the US army which shaped the artists fascination with the enigmatic and enhanced his methodical and repetitive approach to his work. The artist’s use of codified language, coupled with gestural mark-marking, denoting his quest for ‘expressive immediacy’, has formed a body of work which is truly unique in the canon of art history. The present lot is no exception; the plan-view composition with intersecting geometric shapes, akin to architectural drawings, infused with expressive marks draws a paradox between the regimented line and the artist’s impulsive response to his surroundings. The frenetic and free quality in Twombly’s works is often linked his New York School origins and his affiliation with abstract expressionism. Similar to the aforementioned, Untitled, 1969 is visceral and rich with the physical presence of the artist – collaged together with his curiosity surrounding poetry, history and architecture.

    ‘Each line is now the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate — it is the sensation of its own realisation.’ (Cy Twombly, ‘Signs,’L’Esperienza moderna, no.2, August/September 1957, pp.32–3).

    The dichotomy between structure and free hand is furthered by Twombly’s use of recognisable numbers and lettering which have been strewn across the paper plain in ambiguous fashion. These combinations add to the formal aspects of the work- fostering a link with ‘order’ and yet bare no obvious narrative - abstract in their surroundings - save only their identifiable form as a number. In this sense, the artist’s use of distinguishable symbols amongst the abstract mark-making acts as a ‘texture’ within the construct of the work. Indeed, the numbers and lettering in Twombly’s work have often been described as ‘signifiers’ serving as a means to ‘navigate’ the viewer through the layered complexity of each composition.

  • 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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Ο ◆16

Untitled (St. Maartin)

pencil, coloured pencil and pastel on paper
57.7 x 78 cm (22 3/4 x 30 3/4 in.)
Signed, titled and dated 'Cy Twombly "St. Maartin" 69' upper left.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £458,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London

+44 207 318 4063

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 9 February 2016 7pm