It wasn’t right there there all along, but it was somewhere. It being the question of whether this is Cy Twombly’s first painting, a copy of a Picasso.
We know now that it is not, that this Twombly copy of 1939 Picasso—in Nicola del Roscio’s house in Gaeta, published in the NY Times in 2016, and haunting me unexplained until 2021—was made in 1988. Part of the confusion came from the artist’s comments in a feature in the Times in 1994, around the opening of his MoMA retrospective.
So I was close, and yet. Because this paragraph was in the 1994 feature in Vanity Fair around the opening of his MoMA retrospective, written by no less than Edmund Wilson:
In Lexington he was taught by a Spanish artist, Pierre Daura, who had lived for years in Paris. The first painting Twombly recalls doing was a copy of Picasso’s portrait of Marie Therese Walter. In the course of interviewing Twombly, I saw a Picasso-ish portrait—perhaps the same one—on the dining-room wall in the house of his closest friend. “Oh, have you seen Cy’s Picasso?” he asked.
“the first painting Twombly recalls doing,” “Picasso-ish portrait,” “perhaps the same one,” “his closest friend.” There is useful truth to be found in the way these words do not say what’s actually going on.