American artist Cy Twombly was a modern artist in the mid-to-late 1900s. His real name was Edwin Parker Twombly, Jr., but he liked being called by his nickname “Cy”. It was also his father’s nickname as a one-time Major League Baseball pitcher, taken on in a reference to Cyrus “Cy” Young, a very famous baseball pitcher. Cy Twombly had no real dreams of baseball fame, but rather he endeavored to be an artist while still a young boy in school.
He was born in Lexington, a large city in Virginia, in 1928. When he was 12 years old he took art lessons from a Spanish artist named Pierre Daura, who taught modern art, and after graduating from high school he was accepted at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Twombly attended classes there from 1948 to 1949, and also in a few other art colleges on the east coast where he came to know Kline, Motherwell and Shahn. He taught at the New York Art Student League before joining the army as a cryptologist in 1953. It’s believed that his training as a cryptologist had a major influence on his painting, although he was in the service for not much more than a year.
Twombly taught classes in Buena Vista, Virginia from 1954 to 1957, in the Southern Seminary and Junior College. That was followed by a trip to Rome where he met the Baroness Tatiana Franchetti and they fell in love. They had met because she was sister of his Italian patron, Baron Giorgio Franchetti. They married simply, taking their vows in the City Hall in New York City in 1959. Twombly and his new bride went back to Rome, and lived there from that time forward.
As a mature artist, starting to become well-known in the 1960s, he built his reputation on making large-scale paintings that were decidedly different from the “normal” Abstract works of contemporary artists. Twombly made uninhibited scribbles that were called calligraphic, but resembled graffiti, on very large canvases painted with grey, off-white or tan fields of color. He went through different stages while developing his style, some of which were represented by his being inspired by romantic symbolism, classical myths and allegories.
In addition to his paintings, Twombly was a sculptor, using throw-away items like wood pieces or packaging materials to make works which he often painted white; the effect meant to be achieved was that of classical sculpture. He spent some years up until 1959 producing these kinds of works, and then stopped altogether until 1976, when he decided to start building sculptures again. He presented a selection of his sculptures in a very large exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Basel in the year 2000.
Cy Twombly suffered from cancer for many years, but he continued to paint and participate in exhibitions internationally. His last exhibition was held only a week before his death; he’d been hospitalized in Rome when he passed away on July 5th, 2011. Twombly’s works are said to have had considerable influence on a trio of young modern artists named Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente, and Anselm Kiefer.
Some of Cy Twombly’s works are: Apollo and the Artist; Three Studies from the Temeraire (1998-1999); Ritual; Leda and the Swan and Birth of Venus.