10 Things You Didn’t Know About Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly, born Edwin Parker Twombly Jr., was a renowned American painter, sculptor, and photographer. Known for his distinctive style that combined elements of abstract expressionism, minimalism, and graffiti, Twombly’s work has left an indelible mark on the art world.

While many are familiar with his compositions filled with scribbles, loops, and seemingly random words, there is much more to discover about this enigmatic artist. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Cy Twombly.

1. He Was a Talented Athlete

Before devoting himself to the world of art, Twombly had an impressive athletic career. He played baseball during his teenage years, and even received a scholarship to study at the Darlington School in Rome, Georgia. Twombly’s exceptional skills in baseball led to him being scouted by the legendary Boston Red Sox, but his true passion ultimately lay in painting and art.

2. Twombly Served in the U.S. Army

During the early 1950s, Twombly served as a cryptographer in the United States Army. This experience influenced his later use of codes, ciphers, and symbolic marks in his artwork. Twombly’s military service took him to Washington D.C., where he worked in the Pentagon, intercepting and deciphering Morse code transmissions.

3. He Studied with Some of the Greats

After completing his military service, Twombly pursued his artistic education under the tutelage of renowned artists. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he was mentored by painters such as Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline. Later, Twombly traveled to New York City, where he attended the Art Students League and worked alongside influential artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

4. Twombly Lived and Worked in Italy

In 1957, Twombly settled in Italy, captivated by the country’s rich history and artistic heritage. He embraced the Mediterranean culture and made Rome his primary residence for the rest of his life. The picturesque landscapes and classical influences of Italy greatly influenced his work, leading to the development of his distinct artistic style.

5. He Had a Fascination with Classical Mythology

Throughout his career, Twombly frequently drew inspiration from Greek and Roman mythology. He named many of his works after ancient figures, such as Achilles, Orpheus, and Venus. Twombly’s fascination with mythology can be seen in his use of symbolic imagery, abstract forms, and lyrical brushstrokes, which often resembled ancient cave paintings.

6. Twombly Created Massive Sculptures

While best known for his paintings and works on paper, Twombly also delved into sculpture. He produced monumental sculptures, often made from materials such as wood, plaster, and iron. These large-scale works showcased Twombly’s experimental approach and allowed him to explore the spatial dimensions of his artistic vision. One of his most notable sculptures is the 21-foot high steel and aluminum “Untitled (Bastian Courtage),” which stands in the courtyard of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

7. Twombly’s Artwork Sold for Record Prices

Despite being a somewhat elusive and private artist, Twombly’s work commanded high prices in the art market. In 2014, his painting “Untitled (New York City)” sold for a staggering $70.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction. This made Twombly one of the most valued postwar artists, solidifying his place in the canon of contemporary art.

8. He Received Numerous Awards

Throughout his career, Twombly was the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors. In 1995, he received the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City honored Twombly with a retrospective exhibition in 1994, recognizing his immense contributions to modern art. His work has since been showcased in major collections and museums worldwide.

9. Twombly’s Legacy in the Art World

Taking inspiration from his predecessors like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Twombly made a lasting impact on the art world. His ability to create emotion and meaning through seemingly chaotic and spontaneous marks on canvas challenged traditional notions of painting and pushed the boundaries of contemporary art. Twombly’s influence can be seen in the work of countless modern artists who continue to experiment with abstract expressionism and incorporate aspects of his distinctive style into their own creations.

10. Twombly Passed Away in 2011

Cy Twombly passed away on July 5, 2011, in Rome, Italy, leaving behind a vast body of work and an enduring artistic legacy. His contributions to the art world continue to be celebrated, as his unique and provocative creations inspire new generations of artists and art enthusiasts.

If you want to dive deeper into the world of Cy Twombly, his artwork, and his life, check out these resources: