(Edwin Parker Twombly, Jr.), 1928–2011, American painter, b. Lexington, Va., studied Boston Museum School, Washington and Lee Univ., Lexington, Va., Art Students' League, New York City. He met Robert Rauschenberg
in New York; both attended (1951) Black Mountain College and traveled (1951–53) to Spain, Italy, and N Africa. Twombly moved to Rome, Italy, in 1957 and lived mainly there for the rest of his life. An idiosyncratic artist, he rejected the popular movements of postwar art. Beginning in the 1960s, he became known for canvases and works on paper in a mixture of media marked with a mysterious personal calligraphy of grafittilike scrawls, scribbles, doodles, and paint globs extended across the canvas. These works came to often incorporate literary phrases, lines of poetry, or names of Roman gods and other classical references. Paintings from the mid-1980s on, generally of considerable size, feature large, opulently colored floral images and lushly romantic abstract landscapes, again sometimes marked with words, e.g., the four-part Four Seasons
(1993–94). He also created a number of abstract sculptures. His last major work was a serene ceiling painting (2010), commissioned by the Louvre, with the names of Hellenic sculptors and planetlike disks against an azure ground.
See catalogue raisonné of his paintings ed. by H. Bastian (5 vol., 1992–2009); K. Varnedoe, Cy Twombly: A Retrospective (museum catalog, 1994); J. Rivkin, Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly (2018); studies by R. Leeman (tr. 2005), N. Serota et al. (2008), and N. Pavlouskova (2015).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: American and Canadian Art: Biographies