Cy Twombly: The Sculpture


Early Years and Education

When Twombly was fourteen, he began to study modern art with Spanish artist Pierre Daura. After spending the summer of 1947 at an artist's colony in Maine, Twombly attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston through 1948, then returned to Lexington in 1949 to study art at Washington and Lee University. In the fall of 1950, he enrolled at the Art Students League in New York, where he met Robert Rauschenberg, who encouraged him to take classes at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Twombly studied at Black Mountain in 1951 and 1952, when artists in residence included painters Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Ben Shahn, as well as photographer Aaron Siskind, composer John Cage, and choreographer Merce Cunningham. It was at this renowned school for the arts that Twombly honed his distinctive visual language.

In an application for a travel grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in early 1952, Twombly wrote: "What I am trying to establish is--that Modern Art isn't dislocated, but something with roots, tradition, and continuity. For myself the past is the source (for all art is vitally contemporary). I'm drawn to the primitive, the ritual and fetish elements, to the symmetrical and plastic order (peculiarly basic to both primitive and classic concepts, so relating the two)." This prescient statement characterizes the focus and complexity of his entire sculptural oeuvre. He won the grant, which enabled him to travel with Rauschenberg in fall 1952 and winter 1953: to Italy, where he visited Etruscan tombs; to North Africa, where he examined Roman ruins; and to Spain.

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