Lucy Duggan here, talking about anotherone of my favourite artists.
Cy Twombly was an American painter who started out in the 1950s, and had a style characterised by drips, scratches and scribbles.
“My line is childlike but not childish. It is very difficult to fake… to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child’s line. It has to be felt.”
He was all about process and not illustration. He used to draw in the dark so he could express himself more instinctively. “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture,” he once said. He also described how it might take two or three hours of sitting and psyching himself up to do a painting and then he’d do the whole thing in under fifteen minutes, then have to go to bed for a couple of days. He was a creative bomb and you can see that power in his work.
Like another of our favourite artists, Cornelia Parker, he produced sculptures assembled from found objects, too.
On a personal level those who knew him describe his terrific sense of humour and humility. We think his humourousness is really apparent in this lovely photo of him.
Another characteristic we admire is that he was an outsider. He wasn’t one to conform and refused to go along with trends. Critics gave him a hard time and citied his use of graffiti as evidence his was not ‘high art’ – whatever that is. He wasn’t after their approval though, in fact he liked the privacy that his unpopularity gave him and spurned publicity.
“I had my freedom and that was nice”
That’s not to say he didn’t do well: a 1967 untitled piece of his sold for $15.2 million shortly after his death. We think it’s a shame he wasn’t around to see that.
In his later life the trends seemed to catch up with him: younger artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat found inspiration in his work in the 1980s. When the critics finally started being nicer to him he was indifferent to say the least. Of artistic reputation he said:
“I couldn’t care less”
What a legend.
Cy Twombly died in 2011. Find out more about this brilliant man on Artsy.