One of my favorite cities in the world is London. There is something so charming and accessible about the city, perhaps because there is no language barrier, but also because of the great history of the city. Although there are so many wonderful historic sites and museums to visit, London is also very much a city of the 21st century. The combination of the old and the new is truly experienced when visiting one of the jewels of the London museum scene, the Tate Modern. Housed in a converted power plant, the Tate Modern is on the banks of the River Thames, and looks out to the magnificent skyline of London (and is directly across the river from St. Paul's Cathedral, Christopher Wren's masterpiece). Inside, the architecture of the place and the modern masterpieces of art that it houses make it the second most popular tourist destination in London.
On a recent trip to the Tate Modern in London, some of the most mesmerizing paintings I saw were the Four Seasons ("Quattro Stagioni") series by Cy Twombly. The tall canvases were created from 1993-94. The mood that the canvases capture is both beauty and the decline of beauty.
Born in 1928 at Lexington, Virginia, Cy Twombly studied art in Boston, New York and at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Twombly is known for his abstract paintings combining painting and drawing techniques, repetitive lines and the use of graffiti, letters and words. Not graffiti in the tradition of what you might find on the streets of urban American cities, but rather graffiti in the tradition of French contemporary artists.
Quattro Stagioni: Primavera 1993-4
"In each of the four shown here, a different range of colours registers the changing light and temperature of the seasons. In this work, representing spring, a resurgence of energy after winter is depicted in a vertical arrangement of red curves and splashes of yellow. The curves relate to traditional Egyptian boats, which appear in a number of Twombly’s works, including a in this display. Primavera, the Italian word for spring, appears alongside passages of text that evoke happiness and hope." (From the Tate Modern web site)
Quattro Stagioni: Inverno 1993-4
"Quattro Stagioni celebrates the annual cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter, and Twombly’s use of the four seasons to evoke the natural rhythms of death and rebirth is common in classical poetry and painting. Twombly uses strong colours to suggest the brilliant Mediterranean light and the essence of the different seasons, from vivid red and yellow in spring to deep greens and purples in autumn, combining these smears and drips of paint with scrawled poetic fragments, reminiscent of ancient graffiti, from several sources. While the lush, tactile qualities of the paint evoke bodily sensations, the poetry grounds these feelings in the broader context of classical culture. The curved forms that are visible in Primavera and Estate evoke traditional Egyptian rowing boats, imagery that appeared in Twombly’s work after he spent several months in Egypt during the mid 1980s." (From the Tate Modern web site)
Quattro Stagioni: Autunno 1993-4
"Deep reds and greens punctuated by vivid yellow evoke the turning point of the year which is also hinted at in the foliage, stems and berries that appear down the left-hand side of the canvas. The passages of text are harder to distinguish, although the words 'your blood' can be read at two points on the canvas.The artist's red handprint appears near the centre, as if marking his physical presence in the work. Twombly's vigorous approach turns the canvas into an arena for action: paint is pooled and dripped, encrusted, brushed in thin washes, and pushed about by bare hands." (From the Tate Modern web site)
Quattro Stagioni: Estate 1993-4
"Twombly's depiction of summer combines vivid splashes of liquid yellow on white with passages of lyrical poetry that emerge only to disappear again under layers of paint. The text is drawn from a poem by the Greek poet George Seferis. Although the poem is difficult to decipher, references to youth and the passage of time can be picked out. The painting also includes references to the Latin poet Catullus and to the shores of Asia Minor. Baia di Gaeta, towards the top of the canvas, refers to Twombly's home in Italy. "(From the Tate Modern web site)
This month, the work of Cy Twombly was on the cover of Veranda magazine.
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