Born in Virginia, USA, in 1928, Twombly demonstrated great artistic talent from a young age. He attended a number of prestigious art institutions, including Black Mountain College in North Carolina between 1951 and 1952, and became acquainted with many pioneering figures of the Twentieth Century from Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell to John Cage. After receiving a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1952, he left America to travel throughout North Africa and Europe with his close friend Robert Rauschenberg, where he became fascinated by the boundless diversity of cultures and colours, sights and sites. Just two years later, he served in the U.S. Army as a cryptographer. Such experiences were to profoundly influence his artistic style and, as sociologist and writer Annie Cohen-Solal has stated, Twombly can perhaps be best understood through his “identity as an intercultural artist at heart” (Annie Cohen-Solal, ‘The Multiple Territories of Cy Twombly’, in: Exh. Cat., Eykyn Maclean, London, Cy Twombly: Works from the Sonnabend Collection, 2012, p. 9). Seeking to unlearn and unravel his traditional artistic training, Twombly forged a radical new visual language of freely-scribbled, graffiti-like forms, driven by raw emotion over reason, primal instinct above rational. “Each line now is the actual experience with its own innate story,” he proclaimed; “it is an involvement in essence… into a synthesis of feeling, intellect etc. occurring without separation in the impulse of action” (Cy Twombly cited in: Cy Twombly, Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings: Volume II 1961-1965, Berlin 1993, p. 21). Drawing from a wealth of subject matter as diverse as primordial times, hieroglyphics, calligraphy, mythology and the clash between the ancient and the modern worlds, the present work delivers a palimpsest of history, time and space, both confounding and compelling.
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