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Cy Twombly
LYCIAN DRAWING (NIMPHIDIA)
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Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 692,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
17
Cy Twombly
LYCIAN DRAWING (NIMPHIDIA)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 692,750 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Cy Twombly
1928 - 2011
LYCIAN DRAWING (NIMPHIDIA)
signed with the artist’s initials, titled and dated Sept 26 82
oil, crayon and pencil on Fabriano paper
100 by 70cm. 39 3/8 by 27 1/2 in.
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Provenance

Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1982

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Yvon Lambert, Cy Twombly, October - November 1982

Literature

Yvon Lambert, Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné des Oeuvres sur Papier, 1977-82, Vol. VII, Milan 1991, p. 185, no. 204, illustrated

Nicola Del Roscio, Ed., Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings, 1980-1989, Vol. VII, Rome 2016, p. 131, illustrated in colour 

Catalogue Note

First exhibited in Galerie Yvon Lambert in 1982, this work belongs to a wider series completed in the same year, which comprises the Naxos drawings, the Suma drawings and the Lycian drawings of which the present work forms a part. All of these were executed in the small town of Bassano just north of Rome, and all are initialled and dated in the same distinctive manner. This painterly work on paper is characterised by interplay and counterpoint: interplay between Cy Twombly's modern American style and his ancient European allusions, and interplay between text, image, and space.

The work is titled LYCIAN with a parenthesised subtitle of NIMPHIDIA. By 1982, Twombly had been pairing evocative titles with his abstractions for more than 25 years, but in the Lycian, Naxos, and Suma drawings we see him advance this practice. Where in 1978, Twombly was referencing a specific myth in his Venus & Adonis, and in 1981 a specific God in his Bacchus series, here he generalises further: Lycia was an entire geopolitical region of Turkey in the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Centuries BC, known in the modern era for the exceptional preservation of its ruins and its language. In giving the viewer such a broad context, from history so distant it is all but imagined, Twombly denies the reader any sense of narrative and eschews any rational link with the composition below. In his own words, his work “does not illustrate – it is a sensation of its own realisation” (Cy Twombly cited in: James Lawrence, ‘Cy Twombly’s Cryptic Nature’ in: Exh. Cat., New York, Eykyn Maclean, Cy Twombly: Works from the Sonnabend Collection, 2012, p. 17).

His turbulent oil work in the bottom half of the painting appears more measured than the other drawings in the series. However, it is charged with power. Linear red weaves through a pool of murky grey, punctuated with streaks of bright celestial blue. These colours are reflected in the inscription above, where the royal blue LYCIAN is followed by the grey signature and date, and the bright red ‘Nimphidia’. Twombly was insistent that he only thought of colour at its most basic level – “I’m not too sensitive to colour, not really”– so this chromatic reflection is perhaps not for aesthetic purposes, but more a statement about the general composition of the work: the two elements of text and image are not to be contrasted, nor do they illustrate each other, instead they sit alongside each other to be appreciated in tandem (Cy Twombly cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Modern, Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons, 2008, p. 52).

In order to contextualise this work, we might turn to Brice Marden, whose 1988-89 Cold Mountain and his later Vine from 1992-93, show the same considered linear abstraction. It is known that Marden admired Twombly hugely as another stalwart of abstractionism, resisting the rapid emergence of Pop. The most pertinent point of comparison between these two works lies in that feature of Twombly’s work Marden aimed to imitate most: an “incredibly intense concentration in the mark making” (Brice Marden cited in: Kirk Varnendoe and Richard Serra, ‘Cy Twombly: An Artist’s Artist’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 28, Autumn 1995, p. 163).

All things considered, Lycian Drawing should be a work filled with conflict: the reconciliation of unwieldy classical concepts with an abstractionist style reaching the peak of maturity; the juxtaposition of a crayon scrawl with confident bravura oil work. However, though calling this work harmonious would be the wrong description, it is nothing if not composed. Twombly develops his use of text, and achieves that abstract ideal of an arresting work, charged with power, that has been stripped of its formalised meaning and stands, uncoupled from narrative, alone. 

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London