It is a paradise of paper haunted by poets, a suite of fertile leaves where flowers and trees grow, an Eden of freedom under the auspices of Dionysus, Pan and Aphrodite. At the Museum of Grenoble, nearly 80 drawings made between 1973 and 1977 by Cy Twombly (1928-2011) – including many unpublished lent by his foundation – tell of this Arcadian parenthesis, burned in the Mediterranean sun.
The American was emerging from a dark period, marked by violent themes, then blackboards covered in compulsive chalk loops, when he began to abandon the canvas to return to the bare shine of paper. Living in Rome, surrounded by books, he first traces the name of Virgil in capitals, on a white background like an ancient stele. A way of summoning the imagination of the Bucoliques and the Georgics, an extract of which is reproduced on the picture rails, among other verses by Mallarmé, Valéry or Rilke.
Immersed in Italian nature
Because soon the artist chants the names of other poets in sheets in diptychs, similar to open books. In 1976 and 1978, two collections of prints, one citing the great Latin authors, the other the Greek authors, will close this literary parenthesis.
During this decade, for several winters, Twombly also found his childhood friend, Robert Rauschenberg, at Captiva Island in Florida. He then borrows his practice of collage. Back in Italy, a portfolio springs from it, a Natural History, inspired by that of Pliny. Immersed like a shepherd in Italian nature, Twombly compiles mushrooms there (a second volume will list trees), mixing images from encyclopedias and phallic scribbles.
Unfolding of the seasons
Elsewhere, he assembles, like a herbarium, ficus leaves drawn on graph paper, pink like a woman’s genitals. In his ideal Arcadia, a liberated sexuality responds to the fertile nature and unbridled loves of heroes and gods. Here is Narcissus, whose name seems to dissolve and turn blue in its own reflection. Then Orpheus, escorted by two strained lines like the strings of his lyre. Further on, Pan emerges from an earthy spot topped by two turgid leaves.
The raging features of Bacchanales follow in homage to those of Nicolas Poussin. Attentive like him to the unfolding of the seasons, Twombly also lists meteorological notations in two drawn calendars. Its leaves adorn themselves alternately with a rosy dawn, a puddle of mud or a stormy cloud. You can feel the wind, the rain, the cold of winter and the greenness of May. Little nothings, mixing stains and subtle iridescences, as close as possible to life.