Cy Twombly Remembered (1928-2011)
“time... is a wind of seconds buffeting things as it whirls them away, one after another, into nothingness... Wherever this wind swings us, our consciousnesses follow.” 1
The death of Cy Twombly today is a shock, not only because he was one of the greatest living painters but because he was a contemporary - continuing, until the last, to make and show new work. Twombly’s latest museum exhibition is not even a week old. He had a show of new paintings just six months ago and has had eleven gallery exhibitions of new work in the last ten years. This painter has died?
The breadth and depth of Twombly’s oeuvre are without comparison. He worked purely, it seemed, from his feelings, thoughts, and impulses. Critical response, trending art movements and definitions of abstraction and figuration did not limit him. An ‘abstract painter,’ he painted roses, boats, chariots, and battles. At times an observational painter, Twombly painted irises and the sea just as he saw them. He had no anxiety about the contemporary, boldly making paintings about history: Catullus, The Coronation of Sesostris, the Battle of Lepanto. Known primarily as a painter, he created a life’s work of sculpture and photography as well, transforming everyday objects into eternal forms and capturing his surroundings on film.
The freedoms in Twombly’s work set him apart, freedoms that grew with time and remain for our inspiration. As painters, we mourn his loss.
1 Sigizmund Krzhizanovsky, Memories of the Future, p. 195, translated by Joanne Turnbull.