Cy Twombly at Museum Brandhorst
Museum Brandhorst in Munich holds one of the most extensive collections of works by the American artist Cy Twombly (1928 – 2011). The entire upper floor of the museum is dedicated to him. Among the highlight of this unique collection, in addition to the Rose Room, is the Lepanto Cycle, for which a room was created especially.
ca. 90 minutes
About the exhibition
The exhibition on the upper floor spans a comprehensive arc from Cy Twombly’s early works to his last pieces. Charged, abstract forms, painterly gestures, and approaches to writing are recurring motifs in Twombly’s oeuvre. The scrawling lines applied to mostly white, often dirty-looking backgrounds are reminiscent of New York graffiti as well as inscriptions and carvings on Roman ruins. These and other allusions to his adopted country Italy and the Mediterranean culture can be found as topoi in his works.
The Lepanto Cycle
The monumental “Lepanto” cycle (2001) is a major work by Cy Twombly, consisting of twelve paintings that are on permanent display in the Lepanto Room at Museum Brandhorst. The room was designed according to the artist’s wishes. Unusual color accents in a wide range of yellows, reds, turquoises and aquamarines define the drama of the sequence of paintings, which focus on one of the most symbolic naval battles in history: On October 7, 1571, the Holy League, an alliance of Spanish, Venetian, and Papal forces, defeated the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto (now Nafpaktos) on the Gulf of Corinth.
The paintings are arranged in alternating sequences of single motifs and series: The first, fourth, eighth, and twelfth paintings appear as bird’s-eye views of boat hulls, which at the same time give the impression of flames or gaping wounds because of the coloration. In the three intervening sequences, the dramaturgy of a battle is hinted at: From the tense calm before the confrontation begins, to the explosions of color in the center, to the red-colored panels at the end. In Twombly’s work, there is no partisanship: the ships do not form opposing fleets, they do not fight or win, they only burn and sink into the sea-blue glazes.
The Roses Gallery
In 2008, Cy Twombly created a series of six paintings entitled “Untitled (Roses)” especially for Museum Brandhorst. Their presentation in this room is unique due to the mutual effect and coordination between architecture and art. The large paintings depict a series of abstracted roses composed of overlapping planes and brushstrokes. In bold hues of red, pink, blue, yellow and green, countless streaks flow across the canvas, reinforcing the power and intensity of the motifs.
Flowers and the exploration of their cultural and historical significance occupy a prominent place in Cy Twombly’s work. As with many of his works, Twombly has attached literary references to roses, thus telling a small “cultural history of the rose.” Cy Twombly uses poems by Rilke, Eliot, Dickinson and Bachmann, alluding to very different themes such as memory, beauty, eroticism, loneliness, vulnerability and death.
“For me, the past is the source, because all art is essentially contemporary.”
Cy Twombly in the Brandhorst Collection
Udo Brandhorst purchased his first work by Cy Twombly in Munich in 1967; thereafter, Twombly was always central to the Brandhorsts’ passion for collecting. Over the course of the 1970s, they gradually acquired further drawings and paintings, and from the late 1980s also sculptures. These continuous acquisitions allow Museum Brandhorst to provide an overview of Twombly’s entire oeuvre, from the 1950s to his very last works. A deep friendship developed between the couple and Twombly, which also led to the Brandhorsts seeing many of his works in his studio before they were even finished.
Cy Twombly in Munich
Cy Twombly’s attachment to the Bavarian metropolis goes back to the 1960s. He liked the southern flair of the city, whose intellectual and everyday life is characterized by a pronounced closeness to Italy, matching that of the artist, who had already moved to Rome in 1957. He loved the museums, especially the Glyptothek and the Alte Pinakothek, and liked to exhibit his art frequently in Munich. New groups of works were regularly shown in gallery exhibitions here; in 1973, one of his first institutional solo exhibitions was held at the Lenbachhaus, and his monumental Lepanto cycle made a splendid appearance at the Alte Pinakothek in 2002. Individual works by Twombly are inspired by T. S. Elliot’s “The Waste Land”— a favorite poem of Twombly’s that begins with a tribute to Munich:
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire […]
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour. […]
T. S. Elliot, “The Waste Land,” 1922