Mental Floss

The Bloke Who Does Blotches and Scribbles: Cy Twombly

Andréa Fernandes

At the request of reader Corrine, and in honor of his 81st birthday, today's post features Cy Twombly, who's "known as the bloke who does blotches and scribbles." Shown above is his 2008 work, "The Rose (IV)," from his current exhibition The Rose at the Gagosian Gallery in London.

1. Cy Twombly is currently at work on one of his largest pieces "“ a ceiling in one of the Louvre galleries, the Salle des Bronzes. Instead of painting directly onto the ceiling, the design is being painted on strips of connected canvas, which will then be glued to the ceiling. Twombly is the first living artist in 56 years to be given the opportunity to adorn a Louvre ceiling. The ceiling is on schedule to be unveiled a year from now, in April 2010.

2. Twombly's full name is Edwin Parker Twombly, Jr. Both he and his father—Edwin Parker Twombly—are known by the nickname "Cy," after baseball great Cy Young.

3. Twombly studied at the Museum School in Boston, the Art Students League in New York, Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and Washington & Lee University in Virginia. According to the dates provided by several sources, Twombly was apparently studying at several of the schools simultaneously. Today, the headquarters of the Washington & Lee aquatics program is known as the Cy Twombly Memorial Pool, though it's unclear if it's named for Twombly or his father, nor is it clear why it's named after either of them.

4. After artist Rindy Sam defaced one of Twombly's $2 million works with "a loving gesture"—her red lipsticked kiss—she was tried for "voluntary degradation of a work of art." Sam was convicted in November 2007 and ordered to pay 1,000€ to the owner of the painting, 500€ to the gallery it was displayed in, and 1€ to Twombly, as well as to serve 100 hours of community service.

5. Although Twombly is most well-known for his paintings, which some refer to as graffiti art, he is also a prolific sculptor, having created some 150 sculptures. His sculpture has been said to be "remarkable both for its haunting beauty and its poetic allusions to motifs and relics of classical antiquity."

A larger version of "The Rose (IV)" is available here. Fans should check out the Twombly collections at the NGA and the Tate; the Cy Twombly gallery in Texas; the NGA's exhibition, Cy Twombly: The Sculpture; TateShots issue 12 (video) on Twombly; and this "unauthorized" video of Twombly's Blooming exhibition. Current Exhibition:The Rose (London: through May 9, 2009) "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.