Cy Twombly (1928-2011), Nine discourses on Commodus. Photo Sotheby's
signed, titled and dated 1964, pencil and coloured crayon on paper, 70 by 50cm.; 27 3/8 by 19 5/8 in. ESTIMATE 80,000-120,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 97,250 GBP
AUTHENTICATION: The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the Twombly Foundation, who have noted that this work is a "Proof for Poster" and as such will not be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné for Works on Paper.
NOTE: Now housed in the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao after its acquisition in 2007, the nine canvases that together form the Discourses on Commodus, were only previously exhibited twice; first at the Leo Castelli Gallery for which the present work was created, and then, more than a decade later in 1979, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The series is now understood as one of the most important works not only in the context of the artist's oeuvre but also within the history of Post-War art. When exhibited at the Leo Castelli Gallery, however, the profound emotion and urgency of the work was received with hesitance by an American audience that in 1964 was still heavily focused on the potential of the future as visualised through the gloss Pop and sleekness of Minimalism. The corporeality of Twombly's working process, the visceral narrative that guides the Discourse of Commodus, and the cerebral investigation of semiotics that resulted in a visual conflation of time, medium and aesthetic, was at the time seen as an antiquated indulgence, however, has now become understood and heralded as an "awesome commentary [that] emerges as the surest grasp of a vulnerable ambivalence of the psyche and its images in reality; creativity heighted to the majesty of atrocity reveals its physiognomy nowhere more lucidly than here." (Heiner Bastian, Cy Twombly: Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings, volume II, 1961-1965, Mosel 1993, p.29).
After moving to Rome in 1957, Twombly became enthralled by Italian history, classical literature and ancient mythology, leading the artist to artistically tether the subjective and elusive experience of abstract expressionism to a weighty historical background. Increasingly projecting a manic anxiety, Twombly's work from the early 1960s matched the insecurity of a world on the brink of nuclear catastrophe and political unrest. Suggestively taking as his theme the fateful identity of Commodus, the son of the great Marcus Aurelius, Twombly systematically charts the instability and descent that eventually led to the implosion of the greatest empire the world had ever witnessed. Grounding the whirls of savage, trembling and explosive colour that bursts from the center of each canvas within a cool grey surround, Twombly masterfully conjures the cruelty and insanity of an emperor and the resulting social and political chaos that erupted within the structured empire to an evocative materiality on the canvas' surface. Of his work from this seminal period, Discourse on Commodus, the artists first unitarily conceived historical series, most acutely brought to bear the monolithic oracle of the past on the restless present.
Cy Twombly (1928-2011), Study for Triumph of Love. Photo Sotheby's
signed, dated (at Sea) No 23, 1960 and variously inscribed, pencil, pastel and pen on paper, 27.8 by 35.3cm.; 11 by 13 7/8 in. ESTIMATE 40,000-60,000 GBP - Lot Sold: 49,250 GBP
AUTHENTICATION: This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings being prepared by Nicola Del Roscio
Sotheby's. Contemporary Art Auction, 30 june 2011, London www.sothebys.com
Hommage à Cy Twombly dont je viens d'apprendre le décès. R.I.P.