Cy Twombly Comes Home To The VMFA

by | Nov 21, 2023 | ART, MUSEUM & GALLERY NEWS

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is currently hosting a groundbreaking exhibition that sheds light on the early pilgrimage of one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century, Cy Twombly. Born in Lexington, Virginia, Twombly’s work has left an indelible mark on the art world, and this exhibition, titled Cy Twombly, Morocco, 1952/1953, is a homecoming of sorts, celebrating his roots in Virginia.

The Artist: Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly, also known as Edwin Parker Twombly Jr., is widely hailed in Virginia as the preeminent artist to emerge from the state. His profound artistic legacy lies in his unique ability to bridge the realms of ancient art and literature with the artistic practices of the late twentieth century. Twombly skillfully translated historically distant references into a refreshingly contemporary artistic language.

At the core of Twombly’s artistic expression is his abstract expressionist style, characterized by grand-scale canvases adorned with uninhibited, calligraphic, and graffiti-like markings. This distinctive approach has left an indelible mark on the art world, serving as a wellspring of inspiration for a generation of emerging artists. Notable figures such as Anselm Kiefer, Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel, and Jean-Michel Basquiat have all drawn influence from Twombly’s groundbreaking work.

Twombly’s artistic inspiration often stemmed from the rich tapestry of poetry, classical myths, and allegorical tales. He wove these literary references into his art, paying homage to poets like Stéphane Mallarmé, Rainer Maria Rilke, and John Keats through his captivating creations.

The impact of Twombly’s art extends far beyond Virginia’s borders, as his works have found permanent homes in prestigious collections around the globe. Notable institutions like the Menil Collection in Houston, the Tate Modern in London, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and Munich’s Museum Brandhorst proudly display his masterpieces, ensuring that his artistic legacy endures for generations to come.

Untitled (Cy, North Africa), Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008), 1952, gelatin silver print, © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York
Untitled (Cy, North Africa), Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008), 1952, gelatin silver print, © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York

The Exhibition: Cy Twombly, Morocco, 1952/1953

Presented exclusively in the United States at VMFA, this pioneering exhibition originated at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech and offers a unique glimpse into Twombly’s early creative journey. It showcases the artist’s fascination with archaeology and the historic landscapes of Morocco through his sketchbooks, photographs, and two paintings. VMFA’s Margaret R. and Robert M. Freeman Library adds depth to the exhibition by providing archival materials that contextualize Twombly’s travels and interest in North Africa and the broader Mediterranean region. Additionally, a rarely exhibited painting from the artist’s son, brought from Italy, enriches the Richmond incarnation of the exhibition.

A VMFA Connection: Cy Twombly’s Fellowship

The exhibition’s ties to VMFA run deep, dating back to the Visual Arts Fellowship Program’s establishment in 1940. Cy Twombly, a native of Lexington, Virginia, received funding from a VMFA Fellowship in the fall of 1952, which supported his transformative travels. These journeys greatly influenced Twombly’s work and set the stage for his artistic legacy.

Cy Dear Documentary

Earlier in October the documentary Cy Dear, directed by Andrea Bettinetti was shown. The film takes viewers on a journey from Twombly’s birthplace in Lexington, Virginia, to his second home in Gaeta, Italy, and through cities like Paris, Munich, New York, and Houston. It provides a comprehensive look at Twombly’s life and work, offering insights into the spiritual and energetic aspects of his art.

Jeffery Allison, VMFA’s director of statewide programs and exhibitions, emphasized the significance of Twombly’s connection to VMFA, highlighting the artist’s two fellowships from the museum and their impact on his work. The documentary and exhibition provide visitors with a deeper understanding of Twombly’s importance in the art world and VMFA’s role in his artistic development.

Barbara Rothermel, a retired director of the Daura Museum of Art at the University of Lynchburg, shared her perspective on the film. She noted that even for those familiar with Twombly’s work, the documentary offers a broader context and insight into the artist’s life and legacy. It becomes a valuable resource that brings Twombly’s work to life.

Don’t Miss Cy Twombly, Morocco, 1952/1953

The exhibition is a rare opportunity to explore the early works and influences of Cy Twombly. It will be on display at VMFA until January 7, 2023, and admission is free to the public.

More information can be found HERE

RVA Staff

RVA Staff

Since 2005, the dedicated team at RVA Magazine, known as RVA Staff, has been delivering the cultural news that matters in Richmond, VA. This talented group of professionals is committed to keeping you informed about the events and happenings in the city.

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