Twombly, Cy

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Cy Twombly (Edwin Parker Twombly, Jr.), 1928–2011, American painter, b. Lexington, Va., studied Boston Museum School, Washington and Lee Univ., Lexington, Va., Art Students' League, New York City. He met Robert Rauschenberg in New York; both attended (1951) Black Mountain College and traveled (1951–53) to Spain, Italy, and N Africa. Twombly moved to Rome, Italy, in 1957 and lived mainly there for the rest of his life. An idiosyncratic artist, he went his own way, rejecting the popular movements of postwar art. Beginning in the 1960s, he became known for canvases and works on paper in a mixture of media marked with a personal calligraphy of grafittilike scrawls and scribbles. These works came to often incorporate literary phrases or names of Roman gods and other classical references. Paintings from the mid-1980s on, generally of considerable size, feature large, opulently colored floral images and lushly romantic abstract landscapes, again sometimes marked with words, e.g., the four-part Four Seasons (1993–94). He also created a number of abstract sculptures. His last major work was a serene ceiling painting (2010), commissioned by the Louvre, with the names of Hellenic sculptors and planetlike disks against an azure ground.

See catalogue raisonné of his paintings ed. by H. Bastian (5 vol., 1992–2009); K. Varnedoe, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective (museum catalog, 1994); studies by R. Leeman (tr. 2005) and N. Serota et al. (2008).