Cy Twombly was born on April 25, 1928 in Lexington Virginia. In 1947 he attended the Boston Museum School where German Expressionism was popular at the time. Twombly, however, gravitated toward his own interests, like Dada and Kurt Schwitters and particularly Jean Dubuffet and Alberto Giacometti, two important early influences. In 1949 Twombly returned to Lexington, studying at Washington and Lee University before receiving a scholarship to the Art Students League in 1950. While in New York, Twombly visited the studio of Willem de Kooning and saw the retrospective of Arshile Gorky at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which he cited later in life as important moments in his young painting life. While in New York, Twombly met Robert Rauschenberg, who encouraged him to attend the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Twombly did so from 1951 to 1952, studying under Franz Kline, Robert Motherwelll, and Ben Shahn.
For eight months spanning 1952-1953, after receiving a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Twombly traveled to Europe for the first time with Rauschenberg. The two travelled through Italy, North Africa and Spain. This experience that later influenced some of the first paintings that would be considered a part of Twombly’s mature work. Tiznit, created with white enamel house paint and pencil and crayon, with gouges and scratches in the surface, was named for a town in Morocco that he had visited. Inspired by tribal pieces he saw at the ethnographic museum in Rome, as well as by artists like Dubuffet, de Kooning and Kline.
Upon returning to New York, Eleanor Ward invited Twombly and Rauschenberg to exhibit at her Stable Gallery. In 1958, Twombly left Ward’s Stable Gallery and began to show at Leo Castelli, which represented Rauschenberg and Johns and was establishing them as presences in the New York art world. In 1957, Twombly travelled again to Italy, establishing a studio in Rome. He continued to live and work in and around Rome, but traveled extensively, to the Sahara, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and the United States.
Twombly’s works were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1964 and have been the subject of numerous retrospectives, the first being at the Milwaukee Art Center in 1968. In 1995, the artist was honored with the opening of the Cy Twombly Gallery, an annex of the Menil Collection, a museum specifically devoted to the artist's oeuvre.
Cy Twombly passed away July 5, 2011 at the age of 83 in Rome.