Life and work of famed Rockbridge artist Cy Twombly
In its continuing series of presentations about famous artists with local roots, the RHS program for January will focus on Cy Twombly. He was born in Lexington in 1928, where his father was a renowned swim coach at W&L. As early as age twelve, his artistic inclinations became obvious and he began working with painting kits obtained from Sears & Roebuck.
After two years at the Boston Museum School, Twombly returned to W&L to study art. The next year he moved to New York to continue his studies, associating with several artists whose work, like his, would gain great acclaim in the latter half of the 20th Century. One of those friends, Robert Rauschenberg, persuaded Twombly to join him at the avant-garde Black Mountain School in North Carolina in the early 1950s.
A travel grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 1952 allowed Twombly to visit Italy for the first time, and it soon became his primary home, though he also maintained a residence and studio in Lexington. Twombly said that Italy reminded him of “the faded grandeur of Lexington.” “Virginia is a good start for Italy,” he once commented.
Twombly’s paintings were often very large and reflected a vision uniquely his own, not connected to any of the art styles popular during his career. He was frequently inspired by the history and geography of the Mediterranean, Greek and Roman mythology, and epic poetry.
The artist’s work is represented in all the important museum collections in the U.S. and Europe. Rooms at the Philadelphia Museum and London’s Tate Modern are permanently dedicated to some of his large-scale works, and Houston’s Mendil Collection constructed a separate building to house its collection of his art.
This program is the second in a three-part series focusing on famous 20th-century artists who spent significant parts of their lives in Rockbridge County. The series began in December with an examination of the personal and artistic career of Jean Hélion, a notable French artist who lived at Rockbridge Baths during the 1930s, and will conclude in March with a talk on Pierre Daura, a Spanish artist who lived for decades with his American-born wife at the Baths. The three artists are closely connected: Daura was Hélion’s brother-in-law as well as one of Twombly’s early art teachers.