Author(s): Richard W. Leeman
Cy Twombly (b. 1928) is widely considered to be one of the greatest living American artists, and he has received much admiration and international critical praise throughout his fifty-year career. Yet his work defies easy categorization. Subverting traditional distinctions between painting and drawing, brush and pencil-work, written words and images, he has made a highly individual contribution to the history of twentieth-century art. This book interprets Twombly's huge and complex body of work through a close study of his pictures, following both a thematic and chronological progression from the late 1950s to the most recent work. It demonstrates that the signs found in Twombly's paintings - pictograms, numbers, words, colours - which at first sight form an eclectic and multifaceted whole, are in fact organized into a true language whose often archaic forms are combined on canvas with allusive fragments of an enormous cultural world. From a scrawl to a drawing or a word, Twombly's work is an articulation of the language of memory and desire, from a place in which painting, drawing and writing are one single thing.
"'Twombly's paintings are florid, romantic and ornately overstated; they are baroque, decadent concoctions; they are the paintings Edgar Allan Poe's Roderick Usher might have done; they are sensuous flowers of the south; they are seriously unedifying, poisonous vintages. They are letters to history from the heart of a corrupt empire' - Jonathan Jones, The Guardian"
Richard Leeman is a lecturer in the history of contemporary art at the University of Bordeaux, and an adviser to the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, Paris.