Remembering Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly ranks high on my list of favorite artists, right alongside his friend and fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg, with whom he shared a studio as well as a propensity for cat scratch marks of paint and pencil. His seemingly haphazard compositions have held me captivated in museums, where I have stood fixated, letting my eyes roam his great expanse of canvas until my feet became so tired that I actually sat down on the floor – an ardent devotee. This particular experience happened early in high school, when seeing a Twombly after years of studying only formalist, realistic and namely old portraiture and landscapes left me stunned, transfixed, as if anchored to the space in front of the painting by a force beyond my own.

The painting in question was “View, Rome 1959″ (below), a canvas with markings made in wax crayon, pencil and ordinary house paint strewn across its yellowed surface. At fifteen-years-old, equipped with no other art historical references but Monet and Van Gogh, I just didn’t know you could do that – the “that” being whatsoever you please. To me that painting meant absolute freedom. To say it stirred up something within me is putting it lightly. Looking at it made me immensely happy and, more importantly, inspired.

Cy Twombly died three days ago after a long bout with cancer. His death, like the deaths of all great men and women, didn’t make me sad (leaving behind a legacy so great is life-affirming) as much as it made me nostalgic for that first moment of discovery – when I discovered him and how that moment changed the shape of my life. There are Twomblys in museums and galleries all over the world, but if you can’t make it to one to see his magnificent paintings in person, you can still view his entire body of work online.