Cy Twombly - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, March 7, 2018 | Phillips

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Ugo Ferranti, Rome
    Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis
    Estate of John M. and Marion A. Shea, Palm Springs
    Christie’s, New York, 19 November 1997, lot 328
    Private Collection, Belgium
    Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Newport Beach, Harbor Art Museum; Madison, Elvehjem Museum of Art; Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario, Cy Twombly. Works on Paper 1954 – 1976, 2 October 1981 – 17 October 1982, no. 14, p. 37 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Nicola del Roscio, Cy Twombly. Catalogue Raisonne of Drawings, 1964-1969, vol. IV, New York, 2014, no. 51, p. 57 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Delivering the impressive impact of Cy Twombly’s unique pictorial language, Untitled is a vivid example of the ‘whorl’ works that the artist created in 1964. A flurry of scribbles, scratches and loops coalesce into an abstract composition that is simultaneously delicate and dynamic – punctuated by subtle bursts of red and blue colour, and anchored by four dominant monument-like rectangular structures. Created during a spurt of creativity between July and August 1964, Untitled belongs to a suite of nineteen drawings called Notes from a Tower that Twombly embarked on at Castel Gardena, a Renaissance castle in the Italian Alps that he regularly visited in summer. Charged with frenetic energy, other examples from this series reside in prominent collections, such as that of Jasper Johns, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, the latter previously belonging to fellow artist Roy Lichtenstein. Executed at a pivotal point in the artist’s career, Untitled suspends the viewer in a moment of spirited sublimity.

    Created seven years after the artist’s career-defining move to Rome in 1957, Untitled epitomizes the revolutionary visual idiom that Twombly developed in response to the mythical past of his surroundings and his immediate experiences in Italy. Speaking in 1957, ‘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, quoted in ‘Signs’, L’Esperienza moderna, no. 2, August/September 1957, pp. 32–33). While his American counterparts were finding inspiration in Pop culture or Minimalism, Twombly, ever the contrarian, was embarking upon a series of groundbreaking works inspired by the epic and dramatic panoramas and classical landscapes of the High Renaissance and Baroque.

    Untitled is emblematic of the seminal body of work that Twombly created in the 1960s, widely considered as a critical and extremely fertile period in his long and illustrious career. As Simon Schama has observed, ‘Twombly’s creative energy erupts, turning out an extended series of untitled compositions in which pictograms and ideograms…swim and seethe in a broth of jittery action’ (Simon Schama, Cy Twombly Fifty Years of Works on Paper, exh. cat., State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, 2003, p. 14). While Twombly’s 1961-1963 series of works frequently referenced specific Classical tales as a point of departure, the present work demonstrates how, starting in 1964, Twombly’s work is characterised by that which Roland Barthes termed a '“Mediterranean effect”: a topology of references constituting, ‘an enormous complex of memories and sensations…a historical, mythological, poetic culture, this whole life of forms, colors and light which occurs at the frontier of the terrestrial landscape and the plains of the sea’ (Roland Barthes, quoted in ‘The Wisdom of Art’ , in Nicola Del Roscio, ed., Writings on Cy Twombly, Munich, 2002, p. 19).

    The drawings Twombly created in the summer of 1964 at the Castel Gardena represent a crucial stage in the formal evolution of Twombly’s oeuvre in that period. Twombly began work on this series shortly after completing the triptych Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later), 1964, in Rome; Part I of this work resides in The Broad Museum, Los Angeles. While drawing upon the events leading up to the Trojan War, as detailed in Homer’s epic The Iliad, Twombly creates an ambivalent scene, evocative of a frenzied battle, but also a ‘deliberately eroticized apotheosis of life and death’ (Heiner Bastian, ed., Cy Twombly Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume II, 1961-1965, Munich, 1993, p. 30). Through his experimentations in his Notes from a Tower series, Twombly further developed these iconographic themes, in anticipation of his solo exhibition, The Artist in the Northern Climate, at the Galerie Friedrich + Dahlen, Munich, in the autumn of 1964 where he exhibited a selection of the Castel Gardena drawings alongside ten paintings created for the exhibition. While resuming the visual dialogue with the Notes from a Tower works, these paintings introduced an unprecedented level of formal reduction that was characterised by an emphasis on the dominant rectangular structures. Situated at this critical juncture, Untitled articulates an important evolution in Twombly’s practice, which culminated in the artist’s celebrated mid–1960s monochromatic, grey paintings.

  • 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.

    View More Works

Masterworks from a Private Collection

Ο ◆12


signed and dated 'Cy Twombly 1964' lower edge; further signed, inscribed and dated ‘Cy Twombly Val Gardena aug 1964’ on the reverse
pencil, coloured pencil and ballpoint pen on paper
69.9 x 99.1 cm (27 1/2 x 39 in.)
Executed in 1964.

£500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for £609,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 8 March 2018