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Tate Unites London, New York Versions Of Cy Twombly's Great Painting Cycle

Ruzan Haruriunyan's picture

On the eve of the artist's 80th birthday Tate has announced that it will bring together, for the first time, two of Cy Twombly's great painting series from the 1990s as part of a major exhibition of his work at Tate Modern which opens on 19 June 2008. Comprising two sets of four enormous canvases, Tate will unite The Four Seasons 1994-5 from the Tate Collection and The Four Seasons 1993-4 from The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

The Four Seasons (also known as Quattro Stagioni), are among the most popular exhibits at Tate Modern. Their subject is the annual cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter with titles in the Italian translation: Primavera, Estate, Autunno and Inverno. Twombly first began work on them in July 1991 and painted both sets over an overlapping period in his studios in the Italian towns of Bassano and Gaeta. Evoking the natural rhythms of death and rebirth often found in classical culture, the artist used a palette of colours largely inspired by the brilliant Mediterranean light.

Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate who is curating the exhibition said, "To be able to see these two great painting cycles together for the first time since they were parted in Twombly's studio will create a moment of huge impact. Uniting them will form the heart of the exhibition. We are very grateful to MoMA for helping to make this possible."

The theme of the four seasons has a long tradition in classical culture. Twombly's life-long interest in classical literature, painting and music is reflected in The Four Seasons and it is significant that these paintings were begun in Bassano and relate to the autumn wine festival of of that town, with mentions of Bacchus (the God of wine) and Silenus (his follower) appearing in Autunno. He began painting these cycles in his mid-sixties, the same age as Nicolas Poussin was when he painted his late cycle of four classical paintings, The Seasons, in 1660–4. Twombly refers to individual seasons frequently throughout his career, such as in the Ferragosto series of five paintings from1961, which will also be reunited for the first time in the exhibition, and Winter's Passage: Luxor 1985.

Cy Twombly was born in Lexington Virginia in 1928 and studied in Boston, and New York. He met Robert Rauschenberg at the Art Students League in New York in 1950 and later attended the influential Black Mountain College in North Carolina which fuelled his interest in the calligraphic and automatic drawing technique of the Surrealists. Twombly combined this with the expressive gestures of Jackson Pollock to create his highly recognisable graphic style.

During the mid 1950s he shared a studio and worked closely alongside Rauschenberg in Manhattan. Twombly's move to Italy in 1957 coincided with a shift away from Abstract Expressionism to a mature style inspired by poetry, mythology, the classics and European history and literature.

Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons at Tate Modern goes on display from 19 June 2008 until 14 September 2008. It will be the first major exhibition of the work of Cy Twombly for fifteen years and will present a unique opportunity to examine his paintings, drawings and sculpture across a long and influential career. The exhibition will travel to The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, 28 October 2008 – 8 February 2009 and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, 4 March – 24 May 2009. The Four Seasons from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art will only be exhibited at Tate Modern. --

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