Cy Twombly, the celebrated American painter, died Tuesday in Rome at the age of 83. Although a major figure in art, his large-scale paintings of scribbles, graffiti and unusual objects never quite fit the bounds of the major movements of the late 20th century like abstract expressionism or minimalism.
Twombly frequently quoted classical myths and poets, including Stephane Mallarme, in his works. His 10-painting cycle, “Fifty Days at Iliam,” based on Alexander Pope’s translation of the “Iliad,” found a permanent home at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1989.|4
Unlike his friends, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Twombly lacked a single signature work and initially did not gain the same level of exposure. A 1994 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was the first to showcase the breadth and diversity of his work.
“The early work was very much invested in drawing techniques on both canvas and paper,” James Rondeau, head of contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago, told the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown. “The later work becomes much more muscular, almost athletic in its painterly approach to surface and he is an exquisite painter.”
Jeffrey Brown spoke with James Rondeau, head of contemporary art at the Art Institute of Chicago about Twombly’s life and work:
Born Edwin Parker Twombly Jr. in Lexington, Va., Twombly moved to Italy in the late-1950s. He settled in Europe when much of the art world’s focus was moving to New York and received his earliest support from European museums.
In 2010, Twombly painted a ceiling in the Louvre museum. It was the first time an artist was given that honor since George Braque in the 1950s.
His work went on to sell for millions, and over the course of his career he won a number of major international art prizes.
This spring, the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired two paintings and seven sculptures from the artist that are now on display. He was less known for his sculptures, but according to a rare interview given to Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate Museum in London, that lack of attention did not bother him.
“I love my sculptures, and I was lucky I had them for 50 years because no one would look at them,” Twombly said, “and I really liked having them around.”
Twombly, who had cancer, had mostly lived in Italy since 1959.
“He was a sweet, funny, charming gentleman with an impish sense of humor,” said Rondeau. “He just was perfect manners and warm and lovely to be around. It is a very, very sad day.”