The Land of the Stars: The Origin of Cy Twombly's Aesthetic (thesis)
Nexsen, Sarah I.
Washington and Lee University -- Honors in Art History
Twombly, Cy, 1928-2011
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Thesis; [FULL-TEXT FREELY AVAILABLE ONLINE]Sarah I. Nexsen is a member of the Class of 2014 of Washington and Lee University.My thesis focuses on a little-known backdrop Twombly painted for a children's Christmas program in 1953. The backdrop was first brought to my attention after The News-Gazette, the local Lexington newspaper, ran an archival photo to highlight a talk the Rockbridge Historical Society was hosting about Twombly. Interestingly, the backdrop does not appear in any of the Twombly literature; it seems the work had been forgotten and discarded, though it represents one of - if not the - largest work created solely by the famed artist. Though absent from any existing scholarship on the artist's work, I argue that this backdrop marks the earliest instance of several artistic devices Twombly would employ in his later painting: grandiose size, classical subject matter, naïve composition, and the combination of text and image. Using a biographical methodology as well as extensive hands-on research and firsthand accounts from the people who grew up with Twombly, such as Sally Mann, Martha Daura, and Lisa Tracy, I will present my thesis through two case studies, comparing the 1953 backdrop with one of his later paintings, Untitled (Say Goodbye, Catallus, to the Shores of Asia Minor) (1994), one of his largest canvases. This monumental work took him twenty-two years to complete, and it was one that he could only complete once he came back to Lexington. It encompasses all aspects of the unique aesthetic that he began to develop during his youth in the small town. The comparison of his two largest works, while aesthetically different but thematically similar, shows the extent of Lexington's influence in his works throughout his career; specifically how the early work sets a precedent for the artistic elements found in the later work. [From Introduction]Sally Nexsen