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PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Cy Twombly
UNTITLED 
JUMP TO LOT
6

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Cy Twombly
UNTITLED 
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London

Cy Twombly
1928 - 2011
UNTITLED 
signed and dated 1963; signed and dedicated on the reverse
pencil, crayon and biro on paper
50 by 70 cm. 19 3/4 by 27 1/2 in.
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Provenance

Galleria La Tartaruga, Rome 

Studio Febo, Rome

The Lone Star Foundation, Inc., New York (acquired from the above in 1979)

Dia Art Foundation, New York (acquired from the above in August 1980)

Sotheby's, New York, 13 November 2013, Lot 53 (consigned by the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner 

Literature

Nicola Del Roscio, Cy Twombly Drawings: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 3, 1961-1963, New York 2013, p. 190, no. 271, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Untitled is a work of abstruse conceptual vivacity, erudite philosophical backing, and immaculate gestural execution. Moreover, having resided in the collection of the Dia Art Foundation in New York for more than thirty years, Untitled has exceptional provenance and considerable institutional clout. Freed of ornamental encumbrance and heroic gesture, this work unabashedly challenges the legacy of Abstract Expressionism and boldly asserts Twombly’s own position within the western art canon. It was executed at an immensely important period within the artist’s oeuvre, exemplifying the manner in which he immersed himself in the literary heritage and erotic imagery of the classical past, at a time when his New York contemporaries were turning more readily towards mass media and popular culture for inspiration. In appreciation of its idiosyncratic blur of pencil and crayon, we are reminded of that judgement made by celebrated critic Pierre Restany, “as full of ambiguity as life itself… Twombly’s ‘writing’ has neither syntax nor logic, but quivers with life, it’s murmuring penetrating to the very depths of things” (Pierre Restany, The Revolution of the Sign, Paris 1961, n.p.).

The Dia Art Foundation is not only renowned for its presentation of masterpieces by Cy Twombly within an intellectually fertile and curatorially challenging context, but also for its general support of the artist’s wider critical and commercial reputation in America. Indeed in 1990, with the collaboration and support of the Menil Collection, they helped to establish the Cy Twombly Gallery in central Houston. In keeping with their mission statement of perennially focussing on original projects, installations, and exhibitions, the Foundation sold a significant tranche of their Twombly collection in 2013, including the present work, in order to fund new acquisitions. However, until that point, they were regarded as the quintessential museum authority on the artist; the guardians of a collection that was all but a complete survey of the most important moments and styles in his career. That they chose to include the present work in their collection, indeed that they deemed it worthy of a role in their telling of the narrative of Twombly’s oeuvre, speaks volumes not only of its extraordinary beauty and quality, but also of its significance within his wider practice.

Untitled comes from an important period within Twombly’s oeuvre. By the early 1960s, the artist and his family had moved into a grand new home in a seventeenth-century Palazzo on the Via di Manserrato in Rome and, a year later, he moved his studio into rented rooms on the Piazza del Biscione. His day to day world ran the full gamut of antiquarian splendour, and the classical literary references that had long provided him points of intellectual influence began to flood even deeper into his facture. His works became increasingly connotative of place, not merely evoking the sentimental idea of metropolitan opulence, but actively conflating the spirits of both past and present in a single pictorial arena. From 1961 to 1965, during which time the present work was created, Twombly’s oeuvre transformed. His work became at once more rarefied and more frenetic; at the same time more inspired by classical literature in content and more unabashedly original in execution. Indeed, these years were later described by Heiner Bastian as that time in the artist’s career when “everything about the works sets them apart from the larger body of artistic theory of the latter half of [the twentieth-] century” (Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, Volume II, 1961-1965, Mosel 1993, p. 21).

Untitled is typically Twombly: dramatic in aesthetic, sublime in its mitigation between line, colour, form, and void, and deeply evocative of Rome both past and present. Its sheer emotional urgency characterises it as an archetype of this seminal period within Twombly’s praxis, while its exceptional provenance marks it as a noteworthy work within the entirety of the artist’s oeuvre.   

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

|
London