01 Twombly Untitled 1954 New York City

Cy Twombly, Untitled1954 (New York). Öl auf Leinwand, 73.8 x 91 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, mit einem Beitrag der Max Geldner-Stiftung erworben, 1982 © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler.

BASEL.- The Kunstmuseum Basel presents works by the American artist Cy Twombly in an exhibition that is currently on view at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst until March 13, 2016. The show focuses on paintings created between the 1950s and the 1970s from the Kunstmuseum Basel’s own collection, complemented by works on loan from the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation and the Daros Collection. Untitled (1969), a portrait-format painting Katharina and Wilfrid Steib donated to the Kunstmuseum Basel’s collection in 2013, is making its public première in Basel.  

02 Twombly Arcadia 1958 Roma Daros

Cy Twombly, Arcadia1958 (Roma). Wandfarbe auf Ölbasis, Wachskreide, Farbstift und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 182 x 200 cm. Daros Collection, Schweiz © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Daros Collection, Schweiz

With his close friends Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, the American artist Cy Twombly ranks among the leading exponents of a generation of artists who broke away from abstract expressionism in the 1950s to devise their own distinctive and highly influential visual idioms. Twombly was born in Lexington, Va., in 1928 and died in Rome in 2011. In 1957, at a time when the center of the art world was shifting from Paris to New York, Twombly moved in the opposite direction, settling down in Rome. There he found the light of the Mediterranean world as well as the history, myths, and poetry of antiquity that subsequently entered his oeuvre as a web of associations. With a gestural impetus, he activates usually white pictorial surfaces with letter-like scrawls: lines, symbols, and fragments of words—traces of personal recollection and collective memory manifested in a fusion of writing and image.  

03 Twombly Untitled 1959 Roma DAROS

Cy Twombly, Untitled1959 (Roma). Öl, Wachskreide, Farbstift und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 160 x 200 cm. Daros Collection, Schweiz © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Daros Collection, Schweiz.

The exhibition turns the spotlight on paintings created between the 1950s and the 1970s from the Kunstmuseum Basel’s collection, complemented by loans from the Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation and the Daros Collection, which holds a set of outstanding works by Twombly. The exemplary selection traces the creative evolution in the artist’s early oeuvre, beginning with a painting in a fairly intimate format, Untitled, that dates from 1954, before he left New York: Twombly’s roots in abstract expressionism are evident in the compact physicality of the paint and the gestural brushwork. In the pictures he paints starting in 1957—the majority are created in Rome—he stays faithful to these roots, but the dark grounds give way to luminous surfaces in large and wide formats structured by expansively rhythmical linear markings in pencil, crayon, or oil. These works would seem to bear witness to a psychological state the artist experienced as he worked on them; when he subsequently revised them, striking out elements or painting over them, the discarded forms remained visible. The overall impression is one of ambivalence between revelation and mystification.  

04 Twombly Study for Presence of a Myth 1959 Roma

Cy Twombly, Study for Presence of a Myth1959 (Roma). Öl, Wachskreide und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 178 x 200 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Ankauf 1979 © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler.

The portrait-format painting Untitled, which was created near Lago di Bolsena north of Rome in 1969, is presented to the public for the first time. Pencil hatchings subtly suggest an aperture, perhaps a window, amid a white color field. The work, whose donation to the Kunstmuseum Basel by Katharina and Wilfrid Steib in 2013 provided a welcome occasion for the exhibition, ideally complements the museum’s existing eminent collection of Cy Twombly’s art, as the show demonstrates to great effect. The preface to the exhibition brochure outlines the collection’s history.

05 Twombly Untitled 1961 Roma

 Cy Twombly, Untitled1961 (Roma). Öl, Wandfarbe auf Ölbasis, Wachskreide und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 248.5 x 304 cm. Daros Collection, Schweiz © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Daros Collection, Schweiz.

06 Twombly Untitled 1969 Bolsena EHS

Cy Twombly, Untitled1969 (Bolsena). Wandfarbe auf Ölbasis, Wachskreide und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 206.4 x 241.6 cm. Emanuel Hoffmann-Stiftung, Depositum in der Öffentlichen Kunstsammlung Basel © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler.

07 Untitled 1969 Bolsena KuMu

Cy Twombly, Untitled1969 (Bolsena). Wandfarbe auf Ölbasis und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 237.5 x 197.5 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, Schenkung von Katharina und Wilfrid Steib, Basel, 2013 © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler.

08 Twombly Nini's Painting 1971 Roma

Cy Twombly, Nini's Painting1971 (Roma). Öl, Wandfarbe auf Ölbasis, Wachskreide und Bleistift auf Leinwand, 260.5 x 299.7 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, erworben mit Mitteln des Arnold Rüdlinger-Fonds der Freiwilligen Akademischen Gesellschaft, Basel, mit anteiliger Finanzierung aus dem Ankaufskredit des Kunstmuseums Basel © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler. 

09 Twombly Untitled 1985 Gaeta

Cy Twombly, Untitled1985 (Gaeta). Holz, Gips, Nägel, Leim, weisse und graue Farbe, Eisenring, 82.1 x 74 x 34.2 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, erworben mit Mitteln des Arnold Rüdlinger-Fonds der Freiwilligen Akademischen Gesellschaft, Basel © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler.

10 Twombly Thicket of Ur 1990 1999 Gaeta

Cy Twombly, Ticket (Thicket of Ur)1990/1999 (Gaeta). Bambus, Metall, Holz, Draht, Holzstifte, weisse Farbe, Bleistift, Gips, 188.5 x 38 x 36 cm. Kunstmuseum Basel, erworben mit Mitteln des Arnold Rüdlinger-Fonds der Freiwilligen Akademischen Gesellschaft, Basel © Cy Twombly Foundation. Photo: Kunstmuseum Basel, Martin P. Bühler.

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Installation view. Image courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel, Photo: Julian Salinas. 

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Installation view. Image courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel, Photo: Julian Salinas. 

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Installation view. Image courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel, Photo: Julian Salinas.

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Installation view. Image courtesy Kunstmuseum Basel, Photo: Julian Salinas.