Cy Twombly has left the building
Cy Twombly is no more. The American artist died yesterday at the age of 83.
Twombly linked an awful lot of disparate elements and different worlds. He was American, from the Deep South, but seemed more at home in Europe. His paintings had grand themes of death and gods, but also sex and more prosaic, if no less vital concerns. His work was cutting edge, but drew on ancient sources for inspiration and definition.
Twombly was seen as the successor to the likes of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, and indeed many of you may have seen his paintings during Imma’s recent show inspired by the life and work of Morton Feldman. A Tate Modern show in 2008 marked his 80th birthday; at the time, this paper’s art critic Aidan Dunne wrote: “You might find this fascinating or simply exasperating, and Twombly’s work attracts both responses.”
Twombly’s greatest source of inspiration was Mediterranean Europe and its coastline, littered with the physical decaying evidence of gods and myths. His artistic responses to modern events drew on historical parallels, although he was never above being inventive or evolving his work. One of his last commissions was to paint the roof of the Louvre: he drenched the space in blue, with floating discs and the names of ancient sculptors, a sudden departure that he put down to getting “into something new”.
The New York scene of the mid 20th century, with Jasper Johns, Rothko, Robert Rauschenberg and Pollock rattling around, is now approaching near mythic status, and Twombly was one of the last living links to this era. He left it, though, to head to Italy and explore the ancient artistic roots that so fascinated him.
An exhibition of his work is currently in the Dulwich Gallery in London, and Twombly had intended to open it; Tacita Dean has made a film of Twombly that will be on show there. Here is one of his images, but it seems ridiculous to put it here. Like pretty much any abstract works, they have to be experienced in the flesh in their full intended scale, not on the dull, glassy glare of a screen, to be decently appreciated.