Lot 11
  • 11

Cy Twombly

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Cy Twombly
  • Untitled (A Painting in Two Parts) (Bassano in Teverina)
  • Top Panel: oil and wax crayon on canvas  Bottom Panel: oil on canvas
  • Top Panel: 47 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. 120.6 x 100.3 cm Bottom Panel: 15 3/4 in. x 19 3/4 in. 40 x 50.2 cm
  • Executed in 1986. This painting will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings by Cy Twombly edited by Heiner Bastian.


Ira Young, Los Angeles
C & M Arts, New York
Marx Collection, Berlin
Private Collection, Europe


Exh. Cat., Berlin, Hamburger Bahnhof Museum für Gegenwart, Marx Collection, 1996, pl. no. 38, p. 121, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Untitled (A Painting in Two Parts) (Bassano in Teverina) reflects a moment in Twombly's career when his work was heavily influenced by the dramatic Roman landscape. "Landscape is one of my favorite things in the world. Any kind of landscape stimulates me...Architecture is also landscape." (Exh. Cat., London The Tate Gallery, Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, 2008, p.46)  In fact, the artist's resonance with environment inspired his initial move to Italy in 1957. Coming from a rural Virginia upbringing, he felt at home in Italy's rolling hills and balanced lifestyle. In the early 1980s, Twombly further explored the country's vast terrain, spending a great deal of time in Gaeta, a medieval port situated between Naples and Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea. This change in location is evident in the new liquidity of his later work; its frequent allusions to flowing water, mist and sky embody the animating presence of nature and the sense of turmoil it can inspire within. As evidenced in Untitled, the flow of the earth shapes the pull of Twombly's paint. It directs the sweep of his arms and thus, the motion of the entire canvas. Moved by the rhythms of seasonal change and the spirit of the natural world, Twombly would dip his hands into the paint and drag them across the surface of the canvas; a tactile corporeal expression of the sensations these surroundings inspired within him.

Although executed almost two decades later, Untitled bears a striking resemblance to Twombly's Ferragosto paintings of the 1960s; a series which speaks to the insufferable heat of Rome in August and the over ripe effects of such claustrophobic conditions. Named for the Ferragosto festival, classically a celebration of fertility, the work's heady oversaturated reds and browns and thickly encrusted globular forms are reminiscent of this ancient Roman festivity as well the drama of the Baroque tradition. The scatological smears of Ferragosto were also a product of Twombly's excursion to Morocco in 1952 where he was exposed to the cultural construct of the division between right and left hands; the left reserved for unsavory functions so that the right could be reserved for eating and greeting. Upon leaving North Africa, in an attempt to question and confuse concepts of purity, cleanliness and pollution, Twombly began painting with his left hand. This sinistral aspect of Twombly's painting is crucial for elucidating his smudges of thick paint, squeezed from the tube, spread by fingers and spattered down the canvas. This method of application underscores the employment of colors that are often those flowing through and excreted by the body; a cacophonous palette of scarlets, maroons, reds and whites  is evident not only in the Ferragosto series but in the present work as well.

The flowing impasto of Untitled speaks to electricity of life, to the rhythms and energies of fertile beings; their breath, tears, blood and sweat. The corporeal reds, oranges, pinks and browns on its pendant explode from the confines of the canvas, singing the pain and elation of the human experience. Like Monet's Chrysanthemums, the suffusion of color and the sensual layering of both paint and emotion in Untitled convey both the vibrancy and the transience of life. Monet depicts chrysanthemums at their ripest, at the point when their lush petals are just about to wilt and fall, thus alluding to the ephemerality of the moment and the looming presence of death. This metaphorical mode of expression is also the language Twombly uses to express the passage of time and his increasingly complex relationship with his own mortality.

Twombly's work however can often not be attributed to a singular influence, thought or emotion. Not only do his inspirations range from the tactile to the ephemeral, from the sounds of the sea to the lines in a poem but the poetry of his vision lies in the layering of these sensations, expressions and experiences. "Painting is the fusing of ideas, fusing of feelings, fusing projected on atmosphere."(Ibid., p.24) He is an artist who generates paintings out of nothing, awaiting a stimulus, sometimes for months at a time and then allows the thoughts and feelings it inspires to congeal as intuitive marks on the canvas. "You can think of one thing when you're doing and before you get finished you are questioning something else...If you see a painting that's always coherent from the beginning to the end, it's something far from the main preoccupations or the character of the person, that's all. As much as you'd like to get away from yourself, you never do." (Exh. Cat., Ibid., p.  49). His images do not represent unique concepts, rather, they act as radiant clusters through which ideas are eternally rushing so that in looking at the uncoiled elegance of the canvas, we experience the movements and energies of his entire being.