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Cy Twombly, Tulips III no. 2, negative 1985; print 1993. Color dry ink print, 30.2 x 27.9 cm © Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio. Courtesy of Gagosian GalleryCy Twombly, Tulips III no. 2, negative 1985; print 1993. Color dry ink print, 30.2 x 27.9 cm © Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today the acquisition of 29 photographs by renowned 20th-century artist Cy Twombly (American, 1928–2011). Spanning a period of 57 years, the color photographic prints will be the first group of works by Twombly to enter the Getty Museum’s collection. 

The photographs present a variety of subjects, from still lifes of tulips and vegetables to views of the seaside and his studio. Several relate to the artist’s practice in other media, including painting and sculpture. Together the images demonstrate the interest in photography that Twombly sustained throughout his long career. 

“This acquisition enhances the museum’s holdings of photographs by influential artists whose primary process lies outside the medium of photography, such as Edgar Degas, Thomas Eakins, Charles Sheeler, Ed Ruscha, and David Hockney,” explains James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, in announcing the acquisition. 

The majority of the photographs were taken in Italy, while others were taken in New York City, where Twombly studied as a young artist, and Lexington, Virginia, where he was born and maintained a studio. Each photograph is part of an editioned set of prints that was based on a dye diffusion print (Polaroid) made by the artist, yielding uniquely painterly results. The Polaroid characteristics of muted colors, areas of overexposure, and lack of sharp delineation convey a greater sense of mood or atmosphere in Twombly’s photographs than would a more straightforward presentation of the subjects. These characteristics emulate the spontaneous approach often seen in Twombly’s painting. 

Although Twombly had been photographing since the early 1950s, he did not produce these editions until the early 1990s, when he collaborated with Atelier Fresson in Savigny-sur-Orge, France, to create the prints using a photocopy machine-based process that was advanced for its time. The resulting images have a slightly glossy surface and a grainy, almost pointillist appearance. Twombly eventually used a similar process in Munich, where he set up a studio devoted to creating his prints. 

While Twombly’s interest in photography began in the 1950s, he did not exhibit his photographs until later in his career. In addition to a number of gallery exhibitions, museum exhibitions of Twombly’s photographs have been organized by Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam (Foam), Amsterdam; Museum Brandhorst, Munich; and the Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels. 

Cy Twombly

One of the most important artists of the 20th century, Cy Twombly (American, 1928–2011) came to prominence in the late 1950s through his graffiti-like paintings that were seen to undermine the authority of Abstract Expressionism. His sustained interest in painterly abstraction and classical mythology continued to fuel an aesthetic that actively defied broader trends such as Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptualism. Through a complex interplay of literary references, scrawled markings, scratches, erasures, and drips of paint, his paintings came to define the forefront of abstraction. 

Twombly’s work has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain; and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1995, the Menil Collection in Houston opened the Cy Twombly Gallery, a pavilion designed by Renzo Piano to display works made by the artist since 1954. Twombly’s permanent site-specific painting Ceiling was unveiled in the Salle des Bronzes at the Musée du Louvre in 2010, which also marked the occasion of his being named a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur by the French government. 

Twombly died on July 5, 2011 in Rome, Italy.  

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Cy Twombly (American, 1928 - 2011), Sculpture Detail , negative 1998; print about 2000. Color dry print. Image: 17.8 x 16.5 cm (7 x 6 1/2 in.). Sheet: 27.9 x 21.6 cm (11 x 8 1/2 in.)© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

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Cy Twombly (American, 1928 - 2011), Robert Rauschenberg Combine Material Fulton St. Studio, negative, 1954; print 1998. Color dry print. Sheet: 40.3 x 27.9 cm (15 7/8 x 11 in.). Accession No. T.2012.72.1. Copyright: © Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio. Courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.