Michael Stravato for the New York Times, 2005
American Abstract Expressionist painter Cy Twombly passed away Tuesday in Rome at the age of 83, after a long battle with cancer. Born Edwin Parker Twombly, he was later known as Cy and moved to Italy in 1957 as the artworld went through some stylistic changes and his contemporaries Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg remained in the spotlight. He didn’t like publicity or media attention and for many years wasn’t in the favor of art critics. Abstract Expressionism was a mostly American art movement that was post-WWII and took a cue from Surrealism, German Expressionism and the anti-figuration of Cubism.
Cy Twombly made marks on canvas. He scribbled, erased, dripped, and layered using paint, graphite, brushes and his hands. He often scrawled words in both Italian and English and walked a fine line between pure abstraction and graphic, graffiti-like story telling. In the 1980’s his work was a great inspiration for Jean-Michel Basquiat. By 1989 after having a solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, his artwork was sold for over one million dollars at auction.
[AP, image of a 2009 Twombly exhibition via Getty]
Today, Cy Twombly leaves behind a legacy of work that hangs in many museums throughout the world. His painted canvases define a moment of time, a reactionary mark on the surface. In art, the visual documentation of a moment tends to stretch as it is viewed and translated. The importance of Abstract Expressionism allowed artists to realize movement along with the physicality and pliability of paint resulting from action. Cy Twombly was one of these artists and his work will continue to be studied and influence others, even those yet to be born.