Today is the 95th birthday of the American painter, sculptor and photographer Cy Twombly. He belonged to the generation of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: Cy Twombly
AKA: Edwin Parker Twombly, Jr.
DATE OF BIRTH: 25-Apr-1928
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lexington, VA
DATE OF DEATH: 5-Jul-2011
PLACE OF DEATH: Rome, Italy
CAUSE OF DEATH: Cancer – unspecified
FATHER: Edwin Parker Twombly (MLB player, b. 15-Jun-1897, d. 3-Dec-1974)
BOYFRIEND: Robert Rauschenberg (artist)
WIFE: Baroness Tatiana Franchetti (m. 1959, one son)
SON: Cyrus Alessandro Twombly (b. 1959)
GIRLFRIEND: Nicola Del Roscio (together 1964-2010)
BEST KNOWN FOR: Edwin Parker “Cy” Twombly Jr. was an American painter, sculptor and photographer. He belonged to the generation of Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. Twombly is said to have influenced younger artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Francesco Clemente, and Julian Schnabel.
Twombly was born in Lexington, Virginia, on April 25, 1928. Twombly’s father, also nicknamed “Cy”, pitched for the Chicago White Sox. They were both nicknamed after the baseball great Cy Young, who pitched for, among others, the Cardinals, Red Sox, Indians, and Braves.
At age 12, Twombly began to take private art lessons with the Catalan modern master Pierre Daura. After graduating from Lexington High School in 1946, Twombly attended Darlington School in Rome, Georgia, and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1948–49), and at Washington and Lee University (1949–50) in Lexington, Virginia. On a tuition scholarship from 1950 to 1951, he studied at the Art Students League of New York, where he met Robert Rauschenberg, with whom he had a sexual relationship. Rauschenberg encouraged him to attend Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina. At Black Mountain in 1951 and 1952 he studied with Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell and Ben Shahn, and met John Cage. The poet and rector of the College, Charles Olson, had a great influence on him.
Motherwell arranged Twombly’s first solo exhibition, which was organized by the Samuel M. Kootz Gallery in New York in 1951. At this time his work was influenced by Kline’s black-and-white gestural expressionism, as well as Paul Klee’s imagery. In 1952, Twombly received a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts which enabled him to travel to North Africa, Spain, Italy, and France. He spent this journey in Africa and Europe with Robert Rauschenberg. In 1954, he served in the U.S. Army as a cryptographer in Washington, D.C., and would frequently travel to New York during periods of leave. From 1955 through 1956, he taught at the Southern Seminary and Junior College in Buena Vista, Virginia, currently known as Southern Virginia University; during the summer vacations, Twombly would travel to New York to paint in his Williams Street apartment.
In 1957, Twombly moved to Rome, where he met the Italian artist Tatiana Franchetti – sister of his patron Baron Giorgio Franchetti. They were married at New York City Hall in 1959 and then bought a palazzo on the Via di Monserrato in Rome. In addition, they had a 17th-century villa in Bassano in Teverina, north of Rome. They had a son, Cyrus Alessandro Twombly (born 1959), who is also a painter and lives in Rome.
In 1964, Twombly met Nicola Del Roscio of Gaeta, who became his longtime companion. Twombly bought a house and rented a studio in Gaeta in the early 1990s. Twombly and Tatiana, who died in 2010, never divorced and remained friends.
In 2011, after suffering from cancer for several years, Twombly died in Rome after a brief hospitalization. A plaque in Santa Maria in Vallicella commemorates him.
Twombly’s works are in the permanent collections of modern art museums globally, including the Menil Collection in Houston, the Tate Modern in London, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Munich’s Museum Brandhorst. He was commissioned for a ceiling at the Musée du Louvre in Paris.