Profile of Cy Twombly, Modern Artist

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Who is Cy Twombly

Edwin Parker Twombly Jr., or Cy Twombly exhibits his work in the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK) in Vienna this summer (from 4 June to 11 October 2009). He is an American modern visual artist, photographer, and painter. During his life he has tried various kinds of styles and often combined painting with drawing. He is famous thanks to his large scale calligraphic-style graffiti paintings, signs similar to writing, and white sculptures.

Early life

Twombly was born on 25 April 1928. His father, who played baseball for the Chicago White Sox, got the nickname “Cy” after the famous baseball player Cy Young. The nickname eventually passed to Twombly Jr. too.
In his early years Cy Twombly attended numerous American art colleges, including School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, and Black Mountain College in North Carolina. During his studies he met and got influenced by several interesting people like Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, or fellow students Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Ben Shahn.

First solo exhibition, travelling, and army

Cy Twombly’s first solo exhibition took place in 1951 in the Kootz Gallery in New York. His style in that period was influenced mainly by expressionism (Franz Kline) and imagery (Paul Klee).
Thanks to a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Twombly travelled extensively across European countries (France, Italy, and Spain) and North Africa in 1952. When he returned from his journey, Twombly served in the army as a cryptologist, which influenced his style in the following decades. Twombly spent the second half of the fifties mostly in New York in the company of artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

Cy Twombly in Italy in the 60’s

In 1959 Twombly left the US for Italy, which became his second home for the next decades. He worked mainly in Rome and his reputation was going up. His work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1964. Moving to Italy influenced his style again. He moved away from expressionism and started creating his characteristic abstract sculptures coated with white paint (he called it his “marble”). In 1968 the first retrospective of his art was presented by the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Exhibitions around the world

In the 80’s and 90’s Twombly got his work exhibited in many of the most prestigious galleries in Europe and the US, including Kunsthaus Zürich (1987), the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris (1988), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1994). At this time his style was gradually moving towards romantic symbolism.

Where you can see Twombly’s work

Today more than thirty of his sculptures and paintings are kept in the Cy Twombly Gallery of the Menil Collection in Houston and much of his work can be seen in the Museum Brandhorst and the Pinakothek der Moderne (both in Munich). Besides, until 11 October you can see his work in the Museum of Modern Art in Vienna.