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16

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Cy Twombly
IDILLI (I AM THYRSIS OF ETNA BLESSED WITH A TUNEFUL VOICE)
Estimate
1,500,0002,000,000
JUMP TO LOT
16

PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Cy Twombly
IDILLI (I AM THYRSIS OF ETNA BLESSED WITH A TUNEFUL VOICE)
Estimate
1,500,0002,000,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York

Cy Twombly
1928 - 2011
IDILLI (I AM THYRSIS OF ETNA BLESSED WITH A TUNEFUL VOICE)
signed with initials, titled and dated Aug 76 on the left sheet
collage, oil and wax crayon, pencil and tape on paper, in two parts
left: 52 7/8 x 58 1/2 in. 134.3 x 148.6 cm. right: 27 x 20 7/8 in. 69 x 53 cm.
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Provenance

Heiner Bastian, Berlin
Private Collection, Berlin
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1994

Exhibited

New York, Hirschl & Adler Modern, Cy Twombly, Paintings and Drawings: 1952-1984, October - November 1984, cat. no. 28, pp. 30-31, illustrated in color
Youngstown, Ohio, The Butler Institute of American Art, 50th National Midyear Exhibition, June - August 1986, cat. no. 122
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich; Madrid, Palacio de Velazquez/Palacio de Cristal; London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Galeries Contemporaines, Centre Georges Pompidou, Cy Twombly. Bilder, Arbeiten auf Papier, Skulpturen, February 1987 - April 1988, cat. no. 33, p. 87, illustrated in color (Zurich), cat. no. 33, p. 95, illustrated in color (Madrid), cat. no. 34, p. 97, illustrated in color (Paris) and cat. no. 33, p. 95, illustrated in color (London and Düsseldorf)
Milan, Galerie Karsten Greve, Cy Twombly, April - May 1994
Salzburg, Rupertinum Salzburg, Cy Twombly, May - July 1996
London, Tate Gallery; Tübingen, Kunsthalle Tübingen; Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Vienna, Bank Austria Kunstforum, The Froehlich Foundation. German and American Art from Beuys to Warhol, May 1996 - August 1997, cat. no. 260, pp. 190-191, illustrated in color
London, Tate Gallery, Extended Loan, June - September 1999
Karlsruhe, Museum für Neue Kunst im ZKM Karlsruhe, Opening of the Museum für Neue Kunst, December 1999 - March 2000
Karlsruhe, Museum für Neue Kunst im ZKM Karlsruhe, Extended Loan, September 2002 - January 2003
Karlsruhe, Museum für Neue Kunst im ZKM Karlsruhe, Just what is it... 100 years of modern art from private collections in Baden-Württemberg, 10 years at the ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, December 2009 - April 2010, p. 264, illustrated in color
Berlin, Galerie Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly - A Mediterranean World, September - November 2012

Literature

Yvon Lambert, Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres sur papier de Cy Twombly, Volume VI 1973-1976, Milan, 1979, cat. no. 199, p. 182, illustrated
Ruth Langenberg, Cy Twombly: eine Chronologie gestalteter Zeit, New York, 1998, fig. 17, p. 243, illustrated
Richard Leeman, Cy Twombly: A Monograph, London and Paris, 2005, figs. 211 and 212, p. 238, illustrated in color and p. 239 (text)

Catalogue Note

Idilli (I am Thyrsis of Etna blessed with a tuneful voice) is a consummate display of some of the most iconic elements within Cy Twombly’s evocative and utterly poetic oeuvre. Sharing the same inscription as the seminal triptych painting Thyrsis from 1977, the present work encompasses an eclectic mélange that ranges from references to Greek poetry, manifested in graffiti-like script, to expressive color fields. As a testament to the eloquence of Twombly’s imaginative landscapes, the collage composition alludes to an Arcadian concept of classical beauty. Extended across a further, separated sheet, the expressive tonality of deep green shades and soft blue hues evokes the wild and obstructive forces of nature while the movement inherent to the gestural brushstrokes resonates with the cursive velocity of Twombly’s own calligraphic writing. Collaged to the top of the larger paper sheet is a photograph of a forest landscape reflected in the water, a visual trigger that reverberates with the bucolic nature of the poetic reference written underneath.

Since his move to Italy in 1957, Twombly reveled in the richness and grandeur entrenched within antique European culture. His fascination with Roman gods and Greek mythology inspired some of his most celebrated cycles; Idilli (I am Thyrsis of Etna blessed with a tuneful voice) forms part of a series of works on paper – Twombly’s favored medium – created in 1976 that reference the Idylls, a collection of thirty short poems by the ancient Greek Theocritus, also known as the creator of bucolic poetry. Indeed the reference to the Idylls and the powerful lamentation of the shepherd Thyrsis longing for Daphnis allows a more refined view into Twombly’s sources of inspiration. It is the first time within Twombly’s oeuvre that the script is addressed in the first person: I am. This purposeful self-identification with the bucolic poet of lyrical tradition infuses the work with a particular sense of intimacy, alluding to Twombly’s very personal relation to poetry.

The Idylls served as a great influence not only to Twombly but also to other poets including Virgil, who Twombly also admired greatly. In contrast to the heroic writings of Homer (another important reference for the artist), the Idylls of Theocritus are short and highly wrought descriptive poems on pastoral subjects descriptive of a rustic life. The pastoral air of Theocritus’ poetry resonated with Twombly’s art at a transitional moment in his career when he was turning away from the epic themes of mythological battles and towards the elements of water, sky, and trees during the mid-1970s. These components from nature reflected the artist’s life in the countryside of Bassano in the North of Italy where the first two works from the present series were created. Kirk Varnedoe commented on this transition in Twombly’s art: “The land around the house and the (then depopulated) village was thoroughly rustic, and shepherds would come with tinkling bells on their flocks to play music on the hillside directly below the studio windows. Whether from these or other internal cues, Twombly’s art changed as he moved between his fiftieth and sixtieth years.” (Kirk Varnedoe in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art (and travelling), Cy Twombly – A Retrospective, 1994, p. 46)

In its diversity, Twombly’s oeuvre refutes systematic categorization into any specific stream of post-war art. Immersed in the ephemera of a by-gone world, Twombly’s works bear traces of the polymaths of the Antique and Renaissance world, a nostalgic longing for classical myths and legends, that is contrasted by the wild scribbling marks often reminiscent of graffiti-like scrawls. Quoting again from Kirk Varnedoe, who beautifully surmised this fascinating dual presence: “There is a necessary and close exchange in Twombly’s work between his affection for the venerable and timeworn and for the fresh and simple; in the fantasy of the work they fuse to their mutual benefit. His experience of the ancient world as continuously, sensually alive in layers of translation is in some sense consistent with a lush decadence properly called Alexandrian, and it needs constant refreshment by his parallel love for a crude, naïve, and uninitiated manner of expression.” (Ibid., p. 49)

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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New York