Cy Twombly, post-war art giant, dead at 83

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Influential US artist Cy Twombly, who died Tuesday aged 83, was a key figure in the post-war abstract art world with a career spanning six decades.

Renowned for his vast canvasses adorned with scribblings, the artist let his creations speak for themselves, rarely giving interviews or appearing in public.

His death was announced to AFP by the director of the Lambert collection in southern France, Eric Mezil, who said Twombly had suffered with cancer for several years.

Born in Lexington, Virginia in 1928, Edwin Parker Twombly, nicknamed Cy by his father, studied art at the famous Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina in the 1950s.

It was there he met the likes of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg with whom he later travelled to South America, Spain and Italy.

At the end of the '50s he made Italy his home, settling in the town of Gaeta between Rome and Naples, and exhibiting his paintings and sculptures throughout Europe.

Among his signatures were the use of the colour white, his graffiti-like scribblings, and in his photographs, the play of light.

In 2009 Vienna's Museum of Modern Art showcased 200 of his drawings, paintings, sculptures, collages and photographs in an exhibition entitled "Sensations of the Moment."

Director Edelbert Koeb said at the time: "Cy Twombly is the link between the formal radicalisation of US post-war art and the complexity of European painting."

The complexity of his paintings, Koeb said, "arises primarily from the attempt to confront the model of improvisation with methods of planned chance."

Last year Twombly made a rare public outing to the Louvre in Paris where he unveiled a painted ceiling in one of the prestigious museum's wings.

French Culture Minister hailed Twombly as neither a figurative nor an abstract artist, "just brilliant."

"A few months ago I had the pleasure of unveiling in his presence the decorative ceiling that he created for the Louvre's bronzes room.

"A magnificent work that Cy Twombly offered to us to mark his great fondness for France," said Mitterand.

The Louvre's Marie-Laure Bernadac, responsible for contemporary art at the museum, also paid tribute, describing Twombly as "not just a great artist but a wonderful man."

"I am shattered by the news of his death," she said.

"We have lost a tremendous person, a special and unique artist who was very quickly adopted by Europe," when the United States took longer to recognise his work, Bernadac said.

An exposition of Twombly's photographs opened last month at the Lambert collection in Avignon.

According to Mezil it was Twombly's wish to be buried in his adopted homeland.

"He wanted to be buried in Rome, the city he has cherished for 50 years," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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