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Cy Twombly grew up in Lexington, Virginia. United States. He was the son of a professional baseball player Cy Twombly Sr, who had a short major league career pitching for the Chicago White Sox. Both men were nicknamed "Cy" after legendary pitcher Cy Young.
1928-2011. LEXINGTON, VA. USA.
He began taking art lessons at age 12. His instructor was painter Pierre Daura, a Catalan artist who fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. After high school, Twombly studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Washington and Lee University. In 1950, he began studying at the Art Students League of New York, where he met fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg. The two men became lifelong friends.
With Rauschenberg's encouragement, Twombly spent much of 1951 and 1952 studying at the now-defunct Black Mountain College in North Carolina with artists like Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Ben Shahn. Kline's black-and-white abstract expressionist paintings, in particular, heavily influenced Twombly's early work.
In 1953 and 1954, Cy Twombly served in the U.S. Army as a cryptologist deciphering coded communication. While on weekend leaves, he experimented with the Surrealist art technique of automatic drawing, and he adapted it to create a methodology for drawing in the dark. The result was abstract forms and curves that emerged as key elements of later paintings.
From 1955 through 1959, Twombly emerged as a prominent New York artist associating with both Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. During this period, his scribbled pieces on white canvas gradually evolved. His work became simpler in form and monochromatic in tone.
In 1957, on a trip to Rome, Cy Twombly met Italian artist Baroness Tatiana Franchetti. They married in New York City in 1959 and soon moved to Italy. Twombly spent part of the year in Italy and part in the U.S. for the rest of his life. After moving to Europe, classical Roman myths began to heavily influence Twombly's art. In the 1960s, he frequently used classical mythology as source material. His work was dubbed "romantic symbolism," as the paintings were not directly representational but rather were meant to symbolize the classical, romantic content.
In the early 1970s, Twombly created what are often called the "Blackboard Paintings": scrawled white writing on a dark surface that resembles a chalkboard. The writing does not form words. In the studio, Twombly reportedly sat on the shoulders of a friend and moved back and forth along the canvas to create his curving lines.
In 1963, after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Twombly created a series of paintings informed by the life of the assassinated Roman emperor Commodus, son of Marcus Aurelius. He titled it "Nine Discourses on Commodus." The paintings include violent splatters of color against the background of grey canvases. When exhibited in New York in 1964, American critics' reviews were largely negative. However, the Commodus series is now seen as one of Twombly's most significant achievements.
Late in his career, Cy Twombly added more bright color to his work, and on occasion his pieces were representational, such as his massive late-career paintings of roses and peonies. Classical Japanese art influenced these works; some are even inscribed with Japanese haiku poetry.
One of Twombly's final works was the painting of the ceiling of a sculpture gallery at the Louvre museum in Paris, France. He died of cancer on July 5, 2011, in Rome, Italy.