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Cy Twombly

Photographs 1951–2010

The exhibition “Cy Twombly. Photographs 1951–2010”, first showed in the Brandhorst Museum in Munich, presents more than 100 photographs that were selected in close cooperation with the artist himself. The Siegen show is supplemented by the complete inventory of works by Twombly from the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection.

Cy Twombly, Angel′s Trumpets, Gaeta, 2008, Courtesy The Estate of Cy Twombly/Schirmer/Mosel

Cy Twombly, who was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1928 and died in Rome on July 5, 2011, has been taking photographs since he was a student, but only made public with his photographic images in the 1990s. The time of origin and motives vary accordingly. In addition to excerpts from traditional still life motifs, such as tulips or angel trumpets, there are mysterious glances in the interiors that were created in Bassano and Rome in 1985, as well as classic views of ancient temples from 1951. Pictures of flowers and still lifes, landscapes and interiors are reminiscent of the large motifs of art history from which Twombly creates quiet, delicate images. In their striking blurriness, atmospheric colours and diffuse motifs, the photographs open up another facet of the artistic cosmos of Twombly alongside painting, drawing, sculpture and graphics.

All photographs were taken with a simple Polaroid camera. Using a special dry print process, the unique pieces were enlarged and reproduced in a limited edition. The now outdated copying process gives the pictures a shiny shimmer on the surface and makes them look coarser overall. What is striking is the continuous blurring of the photographs, which gives them an atmosphere of vagueness. By playing with light and shadow or overexposure and radical close-up view, Twombly additionally obscures the photographed object. The pictures look old-fashioned, reminiscent of the style of pictorialism, which around 1900 sought to equate photography with painting in rank by means of artistic subjects and effects such as blurriness and flowing transitions.

The great fascination of the pictures lies in the attraction of the invisible in the visible, the poetic glow of light and colour, the detection of the incomprehensible dimensions of time and space. Contrary to all technical requirements of photography, Twombly also defies expectations in this medium and surprises with intimate glances at delicate tulip flowers, lemons, everyday objects such as glasses and bottles, his shoes, his studio and finally his paintings themselves. Through the photographs from more than half a century, Twombly’s artistic cosmos unfold again and in a new way, which lies between fleeting sfumato and expressive gesture, in a mixture of decided and undecided, hardly seems tangible, but is all the more touching.

Twombly is obviously not about recognizing a motif. Rather, he concentrates on surface textures to create a new visual order.

Cy Twombly was awarded the 7th Rubens Prize of the City of Siegen in 1987. Works by Twombly that are part of the Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection (paintings, photographs, sculptures, graphics) were integrated into the exhibition.

The exhibition was curated by Lothar Schirmer.