Cy Twombly was born in Lexington, Virginia, on 25th April 1928 to parents from New England.
1942 - 1946
The most influential person on his formative years was the Spanish artist Pierre Daura who had come to Lexington from Paris for the duration of the war. Twombly attended his painting classes and lectures on Modern European Art for four years starting when he was fourteen years old.
1946 - 1949
Graduated from Lexington High School and attended Darlington School in Rome, Georgia. Spent the summer of 1947 in Ogunquit, Maine (an art colony that existed at the time) In the autumn of 1947 enrolled at the Boston Museum School, attending night classes the first year and day school in the second. During the late forties Twombly's main interests were German Expressionism, the Dada movement, Schwitters' as well as Soutine's work. Saw for the first time reproductions of works by Dubuffet and Giacometti which greatly impressed him.
1949 - 1951
Returned to Lexington, Virginia, to enter Washington and Lee University where an art department had opened that year. Continued his studies at the Art Students League in New York City in 1950 on a tuition scholarship. During the second semester met Robert Rauschenberg who was the first person of his own age to share the same interests and preoccuptions as an artist. In New York city he saw shows of Pollock, Rothko, Newman, Still, Motherwell and others at Betty Parsons' and at the Kootz Gallery, and for the first time de Kooning's and Kline's work at the Egan Gallery. Spent the summer and winter semester of 1951 at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. During the summer Ben Shahn and Robert Motherwell were artists in residence. In November 1951 Twombly had his first one-person exhibition at The Seven Stairs Gallery in Chicago of paintings done at Black Mountain College that summer. The show was arranged by the photographer Aaron Siskind and the curator Noah Goldowsky. First exhibition in New York arranged by Robert Motherwell at the Kootz Gallery.
Cy Twombly + relics, Robert Rauschenberg, Rome 1952
Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg. Robert Rauschenberg, Venice 1952
1952 - 1953
In the autumn of 1952 Twombly received a travelling grant from the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts and left with Rauschenberg for his first sojourn in Europe and North Africa. Went from Rome to Florence, Siena, Assisi, and Venice, continuining their journey in Morocco and spent the winter 1952/1953 there. Travelled to Casablanca, Marrakesh, the Atlas Mountains, Tangier and Tetuan, returning to Rome by way of Madrid and Barcelona. Exhibition in Florence of tapestries done in Tangier and Tetuan. In the late spring went back to America, working in New York City in the studio of Robert Rauschenberg to prepare for a show at The Stable Gallery in the Autumn. Twombly's pictures showed phallic shapes and bunches of hairy tufts which can be traced back to drawings made at the ethnographic museum in Rome and which he named after North African villages, such as Quarzazat or Tiznit. For the first time, he drew and scratched into wet paint, creating a strongly lined surface.
Cy Twombly. Robert Rauschenberg, Tangier, Winter 1952/1953
1953 - 1957
Inducted into the army in 1953; basic training in Augusta, Georgia, later stationed in Washington D.C. During weekends in Augusta he did drawings that formed the basis for the second one-person Stable show as well as direction everything would take from then on. In August 1954 Cy Twombly was discharged from the army. In Febuary he accepted a teaching post in Virginia for one year. Painted the large work Panorama in Rauschenberg's Fulton Street Studio, the only surviving painting of a group of six or eight works. Later in the autumn rented an apartment on William Street where he painted The Geeks, Free Wheeler, Acadamy and other works. Exhibited at The Stable Gallery in January 1956. Twombly had his third and last one-person show at The Stable Gallery in January 1957, where Panorama was shown.
Cy Twombly in Fulton Street Studio. Robert Rauschenberg, New York 1954
1957 - 1962
Left New York for the summer in Italy where he took a house on the Isle of Procida for July and August. In the autumn rented an apartment in Rome facing the colosseum where Olympia, Sunset, Blue Room and Arcadia were painted. In 1958 Twombly had his first exhibition in Rome at the Galleria La Tartaruga; worked in a studio on Via Appia Antica. Returned to America in early spring. Married Tatiana Franchetti in New York City. Took a studio in Lexington, Virginia, painting a series of ten large paintings which were sent to Leo Castelli Gallery but never shown.
Cy Twombly. Tatiana Franchetti, Sperlonga, August 1959
After a second trip to Cuba and Mexico returned to Italy late in the summer and went to Sperlonga. In December his son Cyrus Alessandro was born in Rome. Twombly moved to Via Monserrato where he painted that year The Age of Alexander, to Leonardo, Crimes of Passion, Odeion, Sunset Series, School of Fountainbleau, Sahara, Herodiade and other works.
Cy Twombly. Werner Schloske, Rome 1962
End of April second exhibition at the Galleria La Tartarugua, Rome. Spent the month of July in Saint'Angelo on the Isle of Ischia and worked on a large group of drawings. Travelled to Greece in August; in the autumn to Castel Gardena, Santa Christina, Dolomites. First exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, in October. Rented a studio in Rome on Piazza del Biscione, his working place for the following five years. In 1961 the paintings Triumph of Galatea, the five Ferragosta works, Empire of Flora, Bay of Naples, School of Athens and other works were exucuted here. Spent the months of June and July in the Cyclades. On the Isle of Mikonos in August he worked on the extensive cycle of drawings Delian Odes; a few of these drawings were destroyed by playing children, who had discovered them in his rooms. Spent September in Castel Gardens, Dolomites. The Galleria La Tartaruga published a first comprehensive catalogue. The publication shows a selection of works executed between 1954 and 1960.
Cy Twombly. Tatiana Franchetti, Egypt 1962
1962 - 1966
Went to Egypt and Sudan in January and Febuary. In 1962 he painted Birth of Venus, Hero and Leander, Leda and the Swan, Hyperion (to Keats), Dutch Interior, Second voyage to Italy and other works in his studio on Piazza del Biscione. In December 1963 Twombly worked on the nine-part painting Discourse on Commodus. The cycle refers to the life of the Roman emperor Aurelius Commodus (161-192 A.D.). In March Discourse on Commodus was shown in New York at the Leo Castelli Gallery. Spent the spring in Greece. During July and August Twombly worked in Castel Gardena, Dolomites, on a series of drawings which he called Notes from a Tower. In Rome he painted the triptych Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later) the second version of School of Athens and Il Parnasso.
In the autumn he went to Munich to work on paintings which were shown at the Galere Friedrich + Dahlem, Munich, under the title The Artist in the Northern Climate together with the drawings Notes from a Tower. The theme of these paintings resumes the iconography of the drawings which he had done in the Dolomites during the summer. Twombly spent the first months of the year travelling to Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam. In October his first comprehensive museum exhibition opened at the Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, traveling on to the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and the Stadelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Travelled to New York in November; worked there on a series of drawings to be shown at the Leo Castelli Gallery in Febuary 1966. Went to Virginia at the end of the year. Returned from Lexington, Virginia, to New York City in January where he worked in a apartment on 52nd Street. Travelled by boat back to Naples on 22nd March. In Rome, the first grey paintings were done, in a novel, significantly reduced pictorial language, inscribing the motif with white wax crayon into a dark surface. The sparse iconography of these paintings was to become the center of Twombly's work for the following years.
Cy Twombly. Mario Dondero, Rome 1962
1967 - 1971
Returned again to New York City in the autumn and rented a studio on Canal Street. In February 1967, the Galleria Notizie in Turin showed the first group of the grey paintings. In October, the Leo Castelli Gallery showed for the first time in the U.S.A. the grey paintings that Twombly had done in New York. In the months of October and November, Twombly worked in New York City and in Lexington. Travelled back by boat to Naples on 24 November. In January, the first Twombly retrospective opened at the Milwaukee Art Center. The exhibition showed a selection of paintings and drawings from 1956 onwards. In May and June, Twombly worked in a studio on the Bowery. Here he painted the Orion pictures and the series of paintings Synopsis of a battle the first large-scale version of Treatise on the Veil and Veil of Orpheus.
Cy Twombly working on the Bolsena paintings. Ugo Mulas, Bolsena 1969
Spent the months of August in Castel Gardena and worked again in New York City in the autumn. In December Twombly went back for a short period to Captiva Island, Florida. Here he worked on a series of collages, in which he used reproductions of Leonardo's drapery studies, Deluge motifs as well as of his anatomical drawings. Later that month Twombly went to Los Angeles where he had his first exhibition at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery; from California he travelled to Mexico. Spent the month of January on the Caribbean Isle of Saint Martin where he made drawings whose iconography prepared the paintings which followed in the summer. From May through October Twombly worked in the Palazzo del Drago at the Lago di Bolsena, on a series of fourteen large-format paintings.
Worked in New York City in the winter and travelled to Lexington, Virginia. Spent the month of March 1970 again on Captiva Island. Visited Ireland in the summer. Painted in Rome the second, large-format version of Treatise on the Veil. In February, new works were shown at the Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone in Turin. Twombly spent the summer in the Villa Orlando on the Isle of Capri. In Rome, he painted a dark, large-format canvas, an extremely free work, whose monadic white cyphers invoked the paintings Panorama of 1955. Twombly worked on the group of the five Nini paintings in reaction to the death of Nini Pirandello. Went back to New York City again in November.
Cy Twombly outside his studio on the Bowery. Eliot Elisofon, New York 1971
1972 - 1976
Spent part of the winter on Captiva Island, Florida. In January the Leo Castelli Gallery showed three large paintings which conclude the works of the last years with a rather conceptually conceived, minimalist iconography. After his return to Rome Twombly started to work on an immense canvas with the working title Anatomy of Melancholy (in reference to Robert Burton's treatise, published in 1621) the painting would change over the years and finally be completed more than 20 years later as one of his most challenging and beautiful works with a totally different, final subtitle: Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor. Went for the summer to Capri. Returned in the winter to Captiva Island where he worked on drawings.
In April the Kunsthalle Bern held a retrospective of his paintings which travelled to Munich. During the same time the Kunstmuseum Basel showed a comprehensive selections of drawings done in the last 20 years. A first monograph of drawings edited by Heiner Bastian was published in Berlin. Spent the month of August in Castel Gardena, Santa Christana where he did a cycle of drawings entitled 24 Short Pieces. Travelled with friends to northern and central India in November. Stayed on Captiva Island in February. Upon his return to Rome worked on a portfolio of prints titled Natural History Part I Mushrooms. Had gallery exhibitions in Munich, Turin, Paris and Naples. An archive of Cy Twombly's paintings was established in Berlin.
Cy Twombly. Rome 1972
In the winter he went to Captiva Island and after his return to Italy took a house in Bassano in Teverina which he restored and used as a studio for the summer in the following years. Travelled to Tunesia in the spring. In March 1975, seven years after the first museum exhibition in America, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia showed a comprehensive selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures. The exhibition travelled to San Fransico. Started in May to work on large-scale works on paper. Mars and the Artist and Apollo and the Artist were done in Rome.
1976 - 1981
Completed in May a large group of water colours in New York which were shown at the Leo Castille Gallery in September. In November the Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome opened an exhibition with large-scale works on paper, including Leda and the Swan, Idilli and Narcissus. Finished a second portfolio of prints titled Natural History Part II - Some Trees of Italy. In the summer of 1977 Twombly completed the three-panel painting Thyrsis in Bassano. Started to work on the large cycle Fifty Days at Iliam, a ten part painting which was inspired by reading the Iliad in the translation by Alexander Pope. The scenes of the painting follow decisive incidents of the battle for Troy. Twombly finished the work in the following year. Fifty Days at Iliam was shown in November by the Lone Star Foundation at Heiner Friedrich's space in New York. After the completion of this cycle Twombly painted the two works Goethe in Italy.
In the autumn the first monograph on the paintings was published by Propylen Verlag in Berlin. In Naples the Lucio Amelio Gallery showed a group of eleven sculptures which Twombly had done during the last two years. At the Whitney Museum of American Art a comprehensive retrospective of works executed between 1954 and 1977, opened in April. Twombly returned to Paris in May where he met Roland Barthes. Worked in Bassano in June and July. Participated with a large cycle of drawings in the Venice Biennale. Went for the first time in late spring to work in a studio in Formia, a harbour town between Rome and Naples. Returned to Bassano for the months of August and September where he worked on a large group of drawings which were exhibited at the Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery in New York in April 1982. The Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld held a first retrospective of his sculptures. The exhibition included 23 works executed between 1955 and 1981. In Rome in November he painted the three large Bacchus works.
Cy Twombly. Plinio de Martiis, Rome 1981
1982 - 1987
Stayed at the beginning of the year in New York, and after his return to Italy in March worked in Gaeta, a harbour town near Formia. Spent the summer months in Bassano. The Naxos, Suma, and Lycian drawings were executed in Bassano. In the beginning of February 1983 he went to Key West, Florida where he did a set of drawings. Returned via New York to Rome at the end of March, and in June he travelled to Yemen with his son Alessandro. Worked in Bassano in August on the Anbasis drawings. Spent the winter in Key West where he did the set of drawings Proteus. The Musee d'art contemporiain in Bordeaux opened an exhibition of works on paper in May which focused on mythological themes. In the summer he worked in Bassano where the three-part painting Hero and Leandro was done.
In September the Kunst-halle Baden-Baden staged a large retrospective of paintings and drawings, curated by Katherine Schmidt. On the occasion of the exhibition the state of Baden-Wurttemburg honoured Cy Twombly with the award Internationaler Preis fur bildenende Kunst des Landes Baden-Wurttemberg. Spent the winter months in Egypt staying mostly in Luxor. In the summer Twombly worked in Bassano where the second painting Hero and Leandro (to Christopher Marlowe) was completed. The large series Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair was finished; the nine-part painting is based on poetical quotations by Rilke, Rumi and Leopardi. Twombly took a house in Gaeta which he restored during the following years. Did the design and supervised the painting of the curtain for the Opera Bastille in Paris. In February of 1987 a large retrospective, curated by Harold Szeemann, was held in the Kunsthaus Zurich; the exhibition travelled to Madrid, London, Dusseldorf and Paris. Twombly was elected a member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. The city of Siegen, Germany, awarded him the Rubens-Preis.
1988 - 1992
In the spring worked in Gaeta on paintings Venere Sopra Gaeta and in Rome on a cycle of nine Green paintings which were shown in the summer at the Venice Biennale. Received the award Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In February 1989 the Sperone Westwater Gallery in New York City held an exhibition of his early paintings and sculptures, works which were done in 1951 and 1953; most of them were shown for the first time. The Menil Collection in Houston opened an exhibition of paintings, drawings and sculptures in September. The show travelled to Des Moines in April 1990. In October 1989 the ten-part painting Fifty Days at Iliam, completed in 1978, was installed in a room at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania. Twombly spent the winter months on the Seychelles where he did a series of drawings which were shown in the summer of 1990 at the gallery of Thomas Ammann in Zurich. In 1992 Thomas Ammann included them in a book entitled Souvenirs of d'Arros and Gaeta.
In December the Gagosian Gallery in New York showed 8 of the 14 Bolsena-paintings of 1969 for the first time together. Spent Christmas 1989 in Istanbul. Received in April 1990 the Skowhegan medal for painting. Painted several works entitled Summer Madness in Bassano and completed the large sculpture Thermopylae which was shown at the gallery Piece Unique in Paris in the autumn of 1991. Spent the winter in Sorrento. Stayed on the Greek island Syros in early summer. In July began to paint the two sets of the Quattro Stagioni in Bassano. Spent the winter on Jupiter Island, Florida. Did a series of sculptures. In the spring took a house in Lexington, Virginia. Returned in the summer to Italy. In Gaeta completed a three-panel painting in which the boundless space dissolved in sea and air. The motif of the boat becomes one of his favourite forms. Now uses quotations from poetry even more frequently. The first volume of the Catalogue Raisonne of the Paintings was published in the autumn.
Cy Twombly. David Seidner, Lexington, Virginia 1994
1993 - 1995
Returned to Jupiter Island, Florida for the winter. Spent the summer months in Gaeta where he finished the paintings Autunno and Inverno of the first set of Quattro Stagioni. Received an honorary doctor's degree from the Washington and Lee University in Lexington. Spent the winter in Lexington and the spring in Gaeta. Rented a space in a warehouse upon his return to Lexington where he finished the very large canvas (now extended to three parts) which he had begun more than 20 years earlier in Rome, and now subtitled Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor. Later in June and July he completed the first set of the Quattro Stagioni in Gaeta. Went back to Lexington in August.
At the end of September a comprehensive retrospective, curated by Kirk Varnedoe, opened at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibition travelled for more than a year: first to Houston in February 1995, then to Los Angeles in April and finally to Berlin in early autumn of 1995. During the retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, the Gagosian Gallery showed for the first time the very large three-panel painting in New York. After his return to Italy in November 1994 Twombly went to Munich, Berlin, Prague and Paris. Finished the set of the Quattro Stagioni in Gaeta.
Cy Twombly and Dominique de Menil at the Cy Twombly Gallery. Houston, Texas 1995
Went to Houston in February for the opening of the second venue of the MoMA-exhibition and the inauguration of the Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston; a museum founded by the De Menil family and designed by Renzo Piano based on plans by the artist and in close collaboration with him. 35 paintings, sculptures and works on paper from 1954 to the present are permanently exhibited. The fourth volume of the catalogue Raisonne of his paintings, edited by Heiner Bastion, was published in Munich. Travelled to Berlin at the end of August to attend the opening of the last venue of his retrospective at the Neue Nationalgalerie. Visited St. Petersburg afterwards and returned to Italy.
In Gaeta , during the summer months, he works on sculptures and three sets of monoprints, depicting for the first time, motifs influenced by the Battle of Lepanto, which are shown in December in New York at the Whitney Museum of American Art. An exhibition titled Cy Twombly: Photographs opens at the Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles. In May Twombly is included in the influential exhibition L'Informe: Mode d'emploi, organised by Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss, at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, which is structured around the theories of Georges Bataille. In the autumn he travels to Japan to receive the Premium Imperiale. In early 1997 a new solo exhibition opens at Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne.
His first solo sculpture exhibition in the United States, Cy Twombly: Ten Sculptures, opens in November at Gagosian Gallery, New York, on the publication of his catalogue raisonne of sculpture by Nicola Del Roscio. He spends the winter of 1998 in Lexington, where he concentrates on sculpture. Eight of his sculptures are shown at the American Academy in Rome. In May 1999, he travels to Iran and spends time in Isfahan. Twombly's works are included in the group exhibition The American Century: Art & Culture 1900 - 2000, Part II, 1950-2000, held at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In Gaeta, he completes Three Studies for the Temeraire, a re-interpretation of J.M.W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, for the group exhibition Encounters: New Art From Old, organised by the National Gallery, London, which opens in 2000.
At the end of winter 2000, he returns to Gaeta via Basel, where Cy Twombly: Die Skulptur, a retrospective exhibition of sixty-six sculptures made between 1948 and 1998, opens at the Kunstmuseum Basel in April, organized by Katherine Schmidt in collobaration with Paul Winkler. It travels over the the following year ( as Cy Twombly: The Sculpture) to The Menil Collection, Houston, and the National Gallery of Art, Washinghton, D.C. In the autumn The Coronation of Sesostris series, inspired by the legendary king of Ancient Egypt, is shown at Gagosian Gallery, New York. He spends the winter of 2001 in the Caribbean and the spring in Lexington, where he works on sculptures, photographs and on the Lepanto paintings, a dramatic representation of the navel battle fought by the Holy League of Catholic states against the Ottoman Empire, which took place in the Gulf of Corinth in 1571. The exhibition Cy Twombly: Six Paintings, Three Sculptures opens in June at Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich.
The Lepanto series is presented at the 49th Venice Biennale, where Twombly is awarded the Golden Lion. During the summer and autumn months he works on paintings and sculptures in Gaeta. While in Gaeta, he receives the Constantino Nivola Prize for his sculptural work. An exhibition of photographs opens at Schimer/Mosel Gallery in Munich, while the Lepanto series is shown in New York at the Gagosian Gallery and in Munich at the Alte Pinakothek. Other solo exhibitions are held at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh; and at the Daros Collection, Zurich (Audible Silence: Cy Twombly at Daros). Twombly spends part of the winter 2003 in St-Barthelemy, returning in the spring to Lexington, where he creates the Gathering of Time series. These new works are shown at Gagosian Gallery, New York, in May. In July he travels to St Petersburg, where on the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the State Hermitage Museum present the retrospective show Cy Twombly at the Hermitage: Fifty Years of Works on Paper. The exhibition travels over the next year to the Graphische Sammlung, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Serpentine Gallery, London.
Twombly spends part of the winter season in the Seychelles, in Paris and in London. Back in Gaeta, he works on ten paintings that are shown in London in May-June, on the occasion of the opening of the new Gagosian Gallery (Ten Paintings and a Sculpture). In June a new exhibition opens at Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Zurich. During the winter and early spring he works in Gaeta on a new series of eight Untitled (Bacchus) paintings which are later shown at Gagosian Gallery, in New York. The Hermitage exhibition Fifty Years of Works on Paper travels in January 2005 to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, then opens in May at the Menil Collection, Houston. An archive to catalogue Twombly's works on paper is established in Rome.
In the autumn he stays in Lexington working on sculptures. The show Bacchus, Psilax, Mainomenos opens at Gagosian Gallery, New York, in November. Twombly spends January and February in the Seychelles and the spring months in Gaeta, still focusing primarily on sculptures. In April, an exhibition of recent sculptures opens at Munich's Alte's Pinakothek. He is awarded the McKim Prize at the American Academy in Rome. He travels to Syros, Greece, in the summer and returns to Lexington in the autumn, where he creates a new series of paintings. In November and December he works on the Blooming Paintings in Gaeta. In June 2007, the Blooming Paintings are shown at Collection Yvon Lambert in Avignon (Cy Twombly: Blooming: A Scattering of Blossoms and Other Things). In the same month, a group of paintings produced in Lexington the previous autumn is exhibited at Thomas Ammann Fine Art Gallery, Zurich, on the occasion of its thirtieth anniversary.
Cy Twombly. François Halard, Gaeta, 2007
The artist spends the summer in Abruzzo and in Gaeta, working on paintings. In September he goes to Paris to oversee his ceiling commission for the Salle des Bronzes, Musee du Louvre, then returns to spend the autumn in Lexington, Virginia. In November the Blooming Paintings are shown at Gagosian Gallery in New York. Gagosian Gallery inaugurates a new gallery in Rome on 15 December with an exhibition of Twombly's Three Notes from Salalah. During winter 2008 Twombly spends most of his time in Gaeta, working on a major new cycle of paintings on the theme of Roses. In March, he makes trips to to Maastricht and San Moritz. In April he celebrates his eightieth birthday in Ponza. The Tate Modern retrospective opens in June; it travels to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Galleria Nazional d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome, later in 2009. Twombly's Lepanto paintings go on display at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. In the spring of 2010, after several years in the making, Twombly's monumental ceiling painting, measuring nearly four-hundred square metres, was inaugurated at the Salle des Bronzes in the Louvre, Paris. Exhibitions include "Cy Twombly: The Natural World, Selected Works 2000-2007," The Art Institute of Chicago 2009 and "Sensations of the Moment," the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna, 2009. Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters - Dulwich Picture Gallery June 29 - September 25, 2011
Cy Twombly dies in hospital in Rome at the age of 83. Cy Twombly (Edwin Parker Twombly Jr), artist, born 25 April 1928; died 5 July 2011.