A small cross section of Cy Twombly’s paintings covering his work from the 1950s right up to his most recent work was recently shown at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. The curator’s twist was to compare and contrast his work with that of Nicholas Poussin.
I love some and strongly dislike others. I have come back to this post after some months and realise that I found echoes in the more recent Hockney show of Twombly’s “Four Seasons” It is a set of four large abstract paintings that nonetheless evoke the feel and colours and dynamic of the changing seasons. At the time it was the series that held the strongest pull for me.
Hockney also produced a set of four canvases covering the seasons in a more straightforward way, by painting the same Yorkshire scene at different times of year. Standing in the middle of the room with the Hockneys was a wonderful experience. Strangely though I found myself looking at them partly for their evocation of the seasons and partly for the way they were painted and their use of colour. Some of them seemed more convincing than others. Hockney may not have felt that, but it was just the way I reacted to them.
By contrast, perhaps because there was no specific imagery, for me the Twombly quartet evoked the spirit or the essence of the seasons more strongly and more coherently. These paintings also integrated notes and ideas and visual elements far better than some other paintings in the show such as “Apollo”, “Return from Parnassus” and “Herodiate”. Not for me.
Quattro Stagione (Four Seasons) 1993-4
Some of the drawings felt like Jackson Pollock fields, but with patterns emerging from the automatic writing, while looking at the “Venus and Eros” painting was like drowning in layer upon layer of water – echoes of Monet’s waterlilies perhaps.
In many ways confusing because I thought I was leaning back towards figurative painting, but in the case of the “Four Seasons” for me the more abstract approach of Twombly gets closer to the emotion of it.
There is a great website devoted to the work of Twombly at www.cytwombly.info