Cy Twombly on living outside the norm

Cy Twombly (1928 – 2011) was an American artist who captivated people with his poetic, calligraphic paintings in the second half of the Twentieth century but was prolific up until his passing.  Twombly simplified abstract art, in fact he avoided association with the abstract expressionist movement altogether.

Twombly had studied art all his life, it wasn’t something he came into later in life. I can imagine that as a full-time artist when your work is panned by the critics, it would be easy to look at the popular and seek to emulate. Cy didn’t. He kept on doing his squiggles and sculptures even when others didn’t like them.

What captivated me about these wall-sized works that took over this room in the Tate Modern, was the simplicity. The canvases do not appear to have been primed. The large brush strokes of red runny paint swirl above and below. The individual paintings are untitled but the series is known as Bacchus, the god of wine and drunkenness.


Unlike Francis Bacon’s work on unprimed canvas, there is no sense of urgency. The trance like swirls seem very deliberate, Twombly had a clear intent when moving that large brush over that large plain canvas.

When you stand in a room filled with the work of a single artist, sculptures included, you can’t help but feel the spirit of the artist is standing there with you. The room feels more focused than a gallery filled with multiple artists.

My Twombly experience both captivated and intrigued. I always love an artist that can stay true to their voice and self-expression against the naysayers.



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