The Francis Files
Art Hearts: Cy Tombly's Grand Gestures
JANUARY 14, 2023 - Written by Kevin O'Gara
As an admirer of the postwar art world, the works of Edwin Parker "Cy" Twombly Jr. have always sparked my imagination. His distinct style, characterized by gestural marks, scribbles, and graffiti-like calligraphy, is both raw and refined, evoking a sense of spontaneous energy and movement. Twombly's work is often associated with the larger movement of abstract expressionism, where the emphasis is on the process of creating the artwork rather than the final product, and the artists' use gestural marks, and brushstrokes as a means of self-expression.
One of Twombly's most significant works is the series of ten paintings known as the Fifty Days at Iliam, in which he seamlessly blends interpretations of Homer's ancient poem Iliad with his own unique markmaking. The paintings are truly mesmerizing, with their layers of white and pale gray washes serving as a backdrop for the frenetic scrawls and scribbles in vivid blues, reds, and yellows. The incorporation of these motifs, and the layering of colors, creates a sense of depth and history in the paintings, that presents a field open to the unique perspective of the viewer. The emphasis on the process of creating the art, and the layering of colors and motifs gives a sense of movement and energy that are hallmarks of late abstract expressionism.
Twombly lived and worked in Italy for much of his life, dividing his time between his homes in Rome and Gaeta. He was known for his use of color and light in his interior designs, which were often inspired by the Mediterranean landscapes that surrounded him. His home in Gaeta in particular was known for its minimalist interiors, with white walls and tile floors, which provided a perfect setting for his vibrant and colorful works. The minimalistic interiors of his home are a reflection of his artistic philosophy that less is more, and that the art should be the focal point rather than the surroundings. The simplicity of the interiors provides a sense of calm and serenity that complements the energy and movement in his paintings.