Cy Twombly is not letting a little thing like death slow him down. Twitter user @buffalosean spotted this new Twombly pavilion on the northern side of Houston, in a former Sand Dollar Thrift Shop at the corner of 19th and Yale Streets. Google Streetview’s last capture was just a few weeks ago, so this is feeling very fresh.
Or maybe this is a pop-up shop for a capsule collection from the Twombly Foundation? And if it were, would the merch possibly look any crispier than this T-shirt? To celebrate the hilarious impossibility of such a thing, this CyTwombly T-shirt will be available this weekend was available through midnight wherever, Sunday, July 23rd.
It will be screenprinted in OG orange on a white Hanes Authentic T (to match the Twombly White Rabbit T-shirt from last Summer. Collect’em all!) and will ship worldwide for $US30.
As with previous t-shirt projects, this will only happen if ten people or more want one, and it breaks even. UPDATE: WE ARE THERE. IT IS HAPPENING. Which (MBA? lmao) ten people have always ordered, and between the surprise & delight and shipping, I have yet to actually break even on one of these. Maybe I should take some garbage bags full of them to Times Square and sell them to hypebeasts. Or maybe it’s just a way to share a moment.
I absolutely love this tiny Cy Twombly painting from 1957, which is being sold from the collection of Margo Leavin, iconic LA gallerist.
Leavin’s label says it’s oil on canvas, but it does seem to be on a panel. The scrawl on the back, declaring this to be an “Opera authentico/ di Cy Twombly/ esposti alla Tartaruga/ (nell 1956-1957)/ Césare Vivaldi” by Twombly’s Roman dealer, is almost as perfect as Twombly’s marks on the front.
1957 was the year Twombly moved to Rome. The possibly early date makes this feel like something he brought with him. Or did he make it there? Was it a gift to his new dealer?,
From Galeria la Tartaruga, the provenance shifts to a couple of galleries in Milan, then London, where it was included in a group show at the Royal College of Art in early 1974. By late 1974, it was in Los Angeles, where Leavin showed it in a Small Paintings show. And there it apparently stayed, until now, where it is poised to possibly enter non-trade hands for the first time. If you’re buying it for me, please dm for shipping details. Or if it’s more convenient, I’ll gladly come to you to pick it up.
UPDATE: OK, since it sold for $819,000, I will definitely include a Facsimile Object and Certificate of Authenticity in the trade for this little Twombly. HMU.
As 2021 is finally shown the door, I am pleased to announce The Wall, which was next to The Ceiling. The Wall is a Marron Côte d’Azur and Noir painting executed directly on a wall or a discrete section thereof. Even more than the 19th century neo-classicist aesthetic of Napoleon III, who first executed it in his Salle des Bronzes Antiquites, it evokes the historic moment during the pandemic when leaks about the work’s installation drew the litigious ire of The Cy Twombly Foundation.
For a few months this year, the first realization of The Wall was installed alongside–or underneath, really–The Ceiling, Cy Twombly’s ceiling mural at the Louvre. In Napoleon III’s day, the Noir was the display cases. In the 2021 installation, the boundary between the two colors was demarcated by a dado. The composition of future installations may take cues from the space, and condition of the wall and its elements.
While it is available for individual purchase or commission, The Wall will also be free with the purchase of nine other works, as a treat.
There are other works associated with both The Ceiling and The Wall, the details of which are at present insufficient.
While making The Ceiling, Twombly friend Barbara Crawford and French painters Laurent Blaise and Jean de Seynes joked “that the unique, precise blue for this particular sky, which they’ve spent weeks fine-tuning, should be trademarked and given the name Twomblu.”
There is drama about the Cy Twombly ceiling in the Louvre.
In 2010 Cy Twombly painted a mural on the ceiling– In 2010, a Cy Twombly mural glued to the ceiling of a gallery at the Louvre was unveiled. The 11×30 meter painting is titled The Ceiling, or le Plafond, and it is installed in the Salle des Bronzes.
Even the catalogue essayist noticed that it didn’t look like a Twombly. Maybe because it was painted by assistants in a French studio arranged by Gagosian, after a sketch by the artist1. Twombly said the planet-looking circles against a blue sky are actually references to Greek shields on a background inspired by Giotto, Matisse, or a Japanese print. [Tho lol to a French critic, everything looks like a breast.] The gallery, once part of the 16th century royal apartments, has displayed Greek antiquities since Napoleon, but it contained neither shields nor works by any of the Greek sculptors namechecked on The Ceiling.
A Cy Twombly drawing of a white rabbit would be interesting enough on its own. But you’re saying a Cy Twombly white rabbit drawing is at Sotheby’s Milano with this disclaimer? What does it MEAN?
“This work is registered in the Cy Twombly Foundation, Rome, in the ‘Memorabilia’ department. ‘Memorabilia’ are drawings or small works by the artist that the Foundation plans to publish in a specific catalogue.”
THE MEMORABILIA DEPARTMENT. IS PUBLISHING A CATALOGUE.
Heisenberg’s Rabbit Update: Perhaps noticing the blogger staring in awe through the screen, Sotheby’s has updated the text about the organizational and taxonomical structure of the Fondazione:
“This work is registered in the Cy Twombly Foundation, Rome, in the ‘Memorabilia’ section. In the memorabilia section are gathered all the works, as quick sketches or pieces whose subjects are not typical of the artist’s work.”
In 2015 T Magazine ran this feature on Nicola Del Roscio, Cy Twombly’s partner, studio assistant, and the head of the Twombly Foundation, and his house and palm tree garden in Gaeta. On the dining room wall was a copy of a Picasso which Twombly made, painted over one of his own works.
This instantly reminded me of the big Arts & Leisure profile that Twombly dutifully sat for when he had his 1994 MoMA retrospective, where the artist talked of the first painting he recalled making: a copy of a Picasso portrait of Marie-Therese Walter. I always understood this to have been in his teens, under the influence of his first art teacher/mentor, the Spanish painter Pierre Daura, who settled in the rural Virginia of his wife’s family in 1942.
There is not a lot of time to get into this right now, but holy smokes, Cy Twombly painted the backdrop for the local elementary school’s Christmas play in 1953, and no one’s said boo about it except for one intrepid art history undergraduate.
In 2014, the interest of Washington & Lee art history student Sarah I. Nexsen was piqued by an archival photo in Lexington, Virginia’s local newspaper, The News-Gazette. It showed the December 1953 production of The Comet, a Christmas-themed play written by the Rev. Thomas V. Barrett, for the Ann Smith Elementary School. The backdrop was credited to local boy Cy Twombly, and that was all anyone wrote. The backdrop had never been mentioned in Twombly literature. Nexsen wrote about it for her senior thesis, titled, “The Land of the Stars: The Origin of Cy Twombly’s Aesthetic.” An ambitious project, to be sure.
Near as Nexsen can tell, Twombly got the gig while on leave from the Army, over the Christmas break. Twombly’s former art teacher attended the church where Barrett, the playwright, presided.
According to Nexsen’s research, which included interviewing the star of the show herself, The Comet tells the Nativity story from the point of view of a comet which becomes the Star of Bethlehem. But first it travels through The Land of Stars, meeting planets, raindrops, and Mary & Joseph along the way. Twombly’s backdrop depicts this Land of Stars.
The backdrop was in three panels; the largest, in the center, was approximately 7 x 12 feet wide. The stage right panel, showing Saturn, is partially visible in the only known photo; the stage left panel depicting Mars and Neptune is not documented. Nexsen says the backdrop was discarded and destroyed after The Comet‘s single performance on December 19.
We all owe this young scholar a great debt for bringing this massive, lost, early work to light, and for conducting vital, on-the-ground research to learn its history before the march of time robbed us of its witnesses. So let’s just say that it would indeed be amazing if this lost painting proved to be the momentous source for Twombly’s entire practice: his combination of text and graphic; his classical sourcing; his giant scale; his Lexington influences. 1953 was in the middle of Twombly’s emergence: after he and Rauschenberg ran off to Italy together, and showed at Stable Gallery together, and before he moved back to New York, and then on to Italy.
So it could totally be! But I am going to say it’s unlikely. And Twombly’s own apparent jettisoning of this work and any information about it into a black hole means the case is that much harder to make.
And anyway, rather than depicting Roman gods and their symbolic meanings, it seems more likely that Twombly’s painting of The Land of Stars shows stars, constellations, and planets. If I had the time–when I get the time–I feel like it would be possible to locate the star chart or vintage astronomical map that Twombly used as a source.
The constellation diagrams in my instant guess, The Stars: A New Way To See Them, the immediately popular, influential, and accessible beginner astronomy guide by H.A. Rey, the creator of Curious George, which was published in 1952, don’t really match. But whenever I get to recreating this destroyed Twombly, the deep blue night skies of Rey’s book will be as much inspo as the artist’s own blackboard paintings.
Before anyone gives Cy Twombly on a dog crate the crown for greatest art in real estate listing photography, please check out the listing for the former Ice House of the Vanderbilt estate that was Dowling College, which went bankrupt in 2016 and was liquidated in 2018.
That is Cady Noland’s Tower of Terror (1993-94) in all its in situ glory. Can you even imagine? A pleasant walk past the massive, aluminum group stockade on the way to campus. I guess the bench was in the shed.
Cady Noland was not consulted and does not approve of these photos, but they have been certified by Douglas Elliman. The ice house sold for $376,938. The sculpture sold for $2,207,501. [Thanks greg.org reader dg]
The subject of precariously perched Twomblys prompted Claudio Santambrogio to email, wondering about the painting on the left in this iconic 1966 Horst photo. Surely, it’s not a Twombly.
My first check, of Google, turns up many of the times this Vogue photoshoot of the House of Franchetti-Twombly has been re-published and discussed, and absolutely none of them have a caption or credit for this painting. This shoot is legendary, but atmospheric.
It is also marketable. I have not pinned down when it happened, but there is something swirling around the web in upscale, merchy places like 1stdibs and Artsy, called The Cy Twombly Rome Portfolio. Horst’s images, made for and owned by Condé Nast, are available in limited editions in various sizes, with the “authorization” of the Horst Estate. Interestingly, though, less than half the Twombly photos feature Twombly’s paintings. This feels like a mix of adding the entire contact sheet to the shopping cart, and the Twombly Foundation flexing its vetoing muscles.
Anyway, there is no such compunction to publishing the photo of Twombly’s Richter (Untitled #6), or a straight-on shot of this painting (Untitled #12). None of these photos have caption or credit information (or a Nicola del Roscio to keep them in line.)
Next step: the date of the photo puts a pretty tight constraint on who it could be, and so does Twombly’s circulation pattern. So it’s probably someone he knows in Rome, and likely someone he knows from his gallery at the time, Galleria la Tartaruga. Janis Kounellis made stark black on blank/white paintings around this time, but his are more expressionistic and brushy. Oh wait, Twombly and Kounellis showed together at la Tartaruga in 1961. with Mario Schifano. Who absolutely made paintings like this from 1960-61.
So this is Twombly’s Schifano, which seems to have been mentioned by no one, ever. Was it so utterly obvious that it didn’t need mentioning? Did Mario Schifano have a boyfriend who took over a foundation mighty enough to make even Google blink?
Honestly, I cannot say what is more shocking to me at this point: to see a Twombly propped on a dog crate in the spare bedroom, or that someone selling an Upper East Side pre-war has not staged their apartment before putting it on the market. I am thus convinced this is an epic staging flex, the equivalent of sprinkling some hay on your Mercedes Gullwing and calling it a barn find. Or maybe it’s just an homage to the way Twombly installed his Richter. [s/o Katie via Andy]
One night the artist came over for dinner and after they sat together on the front porch of the house as lightning bugs flashed under a canopy of sycamores. The host’s small child, three or four years old, came out to the porch to say goodnight to all. The father gathered his son in his arms and took him upstairs, his bedroom just above the porch, and tucked him into bed. When he returned to his drink and their conversation, Twombly pointed up to the boy’s bedroom and said, of his own son, of Alessandro, “I don’t know where he slept.”
This anecdote came to mind when I saw this haunting 1965 photo of a young Alessandro, because at least Twombly knew where the kid sat.
The photo, published at a date I can’t determine, in an apparent edition of five, was included in the Pompidou’s Twombly retrospective in 2016. Another, smaller version of the scene, which crops out the dark hallway entirely, was also included. It was apparently an edition of six. Florence Briat Soulié photographed it for her lyrical review of the exhibition. Alessandro has extricated his arm from the chairback, and has one leg up on the seat, but he maintains his gaze into the unlit hallway of the palazzo, where his father was snapping away.
Those locks, those umbrellas, it looks like the ingresso. But that floor and that doorway don’t match, and there’s no steps. And that bust sure moves around. And it looks slightly less like Trump in the light.
I sat on these photos and this post for a couple of months, ngl, wondering if I wanted to deal with the possible blowback that might arise from the Fondazione Nicola del Roscio’s assertion of copyright over these and all of Twombly’s photos. Part of me wanted to just make a point by linking to them only on pinterest.
Two weeks ago on the 378th episode of Modern Art Notes Podcast, Tyler Green discussed Cy Twombly: 50 Days at Iliam, a monograph published by Yale University Press and the Philadelphia Museum, which has the 10-painting series permanently installed in its own gallery. Green’s guest was Richard Fletcher, a classics professor and one of six contributors to the book, alongside PMA curator Carlos Basualdo and Nicola Del Roscio, who heads the Cy Twombly Foundation.
I’d anticipated an episode on Twombly, because Green had recently tweeted about the extremely small and useless images of Twombly’s paintings on the Philadelphia Museum’s website, which, word. I promptly tweeted back an unhelpful joke, by upsizing the jpeg of one of the paintings, Achaeans in Battle, into a uselessly pixelated mess [above].
Not knowing about the Iliam book, I assumed Tyler was going to be talking to Joshua Rivkin, who has a new biography of Twombly called Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly, which I’d recently finished. Rivkin’s book is a labor of love and pilgrimage; inspired by his regular presence in front of Twomblys at the Menil as a teacher and guide, the book documents his attempts to gain insights into Twombly’s life and work from the places he lived and worked: Rome, Gaeta, and Lexington. What Rivkin finds is the thwarting presence of Del Roscio, who disapproves of the biography project, silences sources, and denies Rivkin access to Twombly’s archive, as well as use of his images.
But no, it was Iliam. Green talked with Fletcher about details of Twombly’s marks and texts; his use of a Greek delta instead of an A to write Achilles and the Achaeans; the symbological vocabulary of the series’ colors; what’s going on with all those phalluses; and Twombly’s relationship to his literary source, Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad. [Fletcher also discussed a discovery he’d made, of a different source for some of Twombly’s texts. It’s hot, academic stuff.]
I mention all this scholarly and critical detail because of the sheer bafflement at learning, a few days after the episode was released, that the Twombly Foundation had sent Green a cease & desist letter demanding that images of the Iliam paintings be removed from the MAN Podcast webpage. Those would be the images of the 50 Days at Iliam works whose details were being studied and discussed. By an author of the book. Published by the museum and Yale. It’s an extremely impoverished attempt to exert control over consideration and discussion of Twombly’s work by an extremely interested party, using an extremely wealthy foundation. That it is being done in the name of one of the most important and formative artists in my own life is extremely disappointing.
As soon as I saw Green’s tweet about the C&D, and his removal of the Iliam images, I looked for it on Internet Archive. No luck. But I ripped a screenshot of the page from Google’s cache. In a couple of days, it had been replaced by the stripped down version. So except for anything Green might have archived himself, I think this screenshot is the only record of the original page. I printed it as Untitled (Foundation), an artist book in an edition of 10. The widest printer I could find was 36 inches, so it came out 3 inches wide and barely legible. The images are smaller than even the Philadelphia Museum’s website.
I am sending this artwork to people who appreciate the importance of fair use to progress of Science and the useful Arts; to the freedom of the press and expression; to the transformational creation of new art; and to the accountability to the public good that is expected of tax-exempt foundations and those who control and benefit from them.
The big score in my search for the collage elements of Robert Rauschenberg’s lost painting, Should Love Come First? was the magazine clipping that said just that.
It turns out to be from True Confessions, a women’s sex and relationship advice magazine. The article was written, apparently, by a reader named June soliciting advice for handling her man. I gave a brief recap of the article in Panorama, and there’s a picture which shows the pullquote, which does
seem to resonate with the situation of Rauschenberg, his new, pregnant, wife Susan Weil, and Rauschenberg’s new squeeze Cy Twombly, at the moment the painting was made:
Will I be able to find happiness married to the man who once jilted me? Or will I always remember that I was second choice?
But I have transcribed the whole thing here. And I now feel sort of compelled to look for the responses that True Confessions readers gave “June” about taking her man–and his new baby–back. What do YOU think she should do? Leave your answers in the comments! Continue reading “This Is My Problem…Should Love Come First?”
The artist Elizabeth “Betty” Stokes di Robilant was interviewed by Christie’s in May 2013. Stokes was a longtime friend of Cy Twombly. Their story and relationship and collaboration, and her later erasure from Twombly’s official story, is discussed in Chalk, a biography of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin, which was published in October 2018. Rivkin quotes the interview by Robert Brown, which was published on the occasion of the sale of a painted bronze cast of a 1966 [or 1956, or 1959, or 1980 or 1981, or 1990] sculpture Twombly gave to dee Robilant for her 10th wedding anniversary. Twombly later reworked and cast the sculpture in 1990 in an edition of five. Di Robilant’s three children each got one; she got one, and Twombly got one. Ed. 1 of 5 was sold at Christie’s London on June 25th, 2013, for GBP 1.63 million.
I somehow had not seen or noticed this 1962 Cy Twombly painting, The Vengeance of Achilles, in the Kunstmuseum Zürich. And I did not see it–or anything, tbh–at the Pompidou’s Twombly retrospective a couple of years ago. But its mountain-like, or volcano-like, form is amazing. Also it’s huge, three meters tall. Most of those marks are within an arm’s reach, but some of them look like they required Twombly’s full wingspan.
Then while looking up more information about it, I realized that one of the equally huge paintings in Fifty Days at Iliam, which Twombly painted 16 years later, and which are at the Philadelphia Museum, is also titled Vengeance of Achilles. Aaaannd I guess that is not a mountain.
[10 minutes later update: Wait, what? I go Googling for some vintage Nine Discourses of Commodus reviews, only to find a Twombly biography that quotes the same Menil Collection conservation interview and the same Nicola del Roscio T Magazine profile I’ve had open in my browser tabs for three years? How did I not know this? Because it is brand new, and dropping in a couple of weeks.]