top of page

Cy Twombly: Making Past Present

American artist Cy Twombly's lifelong connection to the art of ancient greek and roman cultures, as well as his costant engagement with the sources of antiquity - from the reading of greek and latin poetry to the travels across Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia - is the theme of the exhibition currently on view at at the Getty Center from August 2 through October 30, 2022, Cy Twombly: Making Past Present.

A heritage that the artist was able to translate - as reported by Timothy Potts, the Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum - into the artistic language of the postwar avant-garde, making the ‘past present’ in startlingly immediate, vigorous, and original ways.

Exemplifying of Twombly’s original approach to painting is an artwork from 1968, Synopsis of a Battle, where the legendary Battle of Issus of Alexander The Great (333 B.C.) is evoked through a violent and apparently enigmatic diagram of lines and numbers dashed off on a blackboard, rather than traditionally represented.

But narration lies in the sign, and looking at the painting, following the radiant movement of the artist’s markings we are nevertheless able to get the feeling of the historical action: an awareness that has the power of a burst of light piercing the gloom of a very distant past.

Synopsis of a Battle, 1968, Cy Twombly. Oil-based house paint and wax crayon on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond. Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis, 85.451. © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photograph: Katherine Wetzel, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

The exhibition is also including sculptures, photographs, and a selection of roman marbles and greek bronzes from the artist's personal collection.

Apollo, 1975 Cy Twombly (American, 1928–2011) Oil stick, graphite, and oil paint on paper

150 × 133.2 cm (59 1/16 × 52 7/16 in.) Collection Cy Twombly Foundation © Cy Twombly Foundation Photograph: Mimmo Capone

Leda and the Swan, 1962 Cy Twombly (American, 1928–2011) Oil, graphite, and wax crayon on canvas 190.5 × 200 cm (75 × 78 3/4 in.) The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest and the Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection (both by exchange), 1994 © Cy Twombly Foundation Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY EX.2020.5.116

By the Ionian Sea, 1988 Cy Twombly (American, 1928–2011) Bronze, oil-based paint, and graphite 31 × 58 × 50 cm (12 3/16 × 22 13/16 × 19 11/16 in.) Collection Cy Twombly Foundation © Cy Twombly Foundation EX.2020.5.79

"What I am trying to establish is that Modern Art isn’t dislocated, but something with roots, tradition and continuity" - the artist used to say already in 1952.

However, while surely benefiting from the conquests of anti-figurative gestures of the colleagues Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline, Twombly's radical language required more time to get a public and critic recognition, especially at home.

Few years later, the artist moved definitely in Rome, where ready to recognize and to foster his talent will be Palma Bucarelli, who dedicated him his first Italian personal exhibition at Galleria La Tartaruga in 1958, and gallerist Lucio Amelio.

bottom of page