Cy Twombly died in July of 2011, leaving behind a series of eight paintings in his Gaeta studio that he had created in February of that year. Twombly’s assistant and companion, Nicola Del Roscio, reported that Twombly’s breath was laboured as he created these final pieces: ‘He was like in an agony. But he did not want to give up. It was really his last effort.’ Twombly did not explicitly name these works, but spoke of them as Camino Real panels, along with the five paintings he had created just a few months prior.
The Untitled (Camino Real) paintings are among the most intensely colourful that Twombly created in his artistic career of more than 60 years: loops of red, yellow, and orange form exuberant chords of colour against a light-green ground. One’s eyes follow the individual lines to see where they begin and where they run off the edges, how they overlap and abruptly come to an end. The rhythmic repetitions of circular movements create a fervent momentum.
The spectrum of possibilities for expression that Twombly demonstrated over the whole series is astonishing. By modifying the sizes of the loops, the balance of the chords of colour, and the ways the loops overlap, he was able to produce a great variety of atmospheres and attitudes. Twombly tied the broad brushes he was using to the end of long sticks. This painting method diminished his control over the lines he created; the artist surrendered them, in a way, and in so doing allowed them to develop a spirit of their own. One can see how Twombly positioned a brush freshly dipped in paint, how the paint then flowed downward thickly, and how the gesture gradually lost vitality. The individual loops, formed from several strokes of the brush, appear jerky, seem themselves ‘short of breath’ – and in fact, they raise the question of whether Twombly was representing the physical exertion of old age in his last series of paintings. The dynamism and luminosity of the sweeping gestures give the impression that Twombly attached his brushes to long sticks in order to expand his aging body’s radius of action.