Five bronze sculptures by Cy Twombly go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Five bronze sculptures by the celebrated artist Cy Twombly have been given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the Cy Twombly Foundation, museum officials reported Thursday.

The artist, who died in 2011, specifically selected the five pieces for exhibition at the museum, shortly before his death.

Victory, Conceived 1987, cast 2005. Cy Twombly, American, 1928 2011. Patinated bronze, 12 feet 1 inches × 35 inches × 13 1/2 inches, Base (platform): 4 1/2 × 60 × 37 inches.

In making the gifts, Nicola Del Roscio, foundation president, said he was certain Twombly would happily approve.

Museum director Timothy Rub called the gift extraordinary, noting that the sculptures, which have been on view in the museum's Perelman Building, evoke classical themes in Homer's account of the Trojan War in the Iliad.

"They represent an enormously important addition to our holdings of work by this great artist, who is a key figure in the history of contemporary art," Rub said in a statement.

Carlos Basualdo, the museum's curator of contemporary art, said that the museum has had a gallery devoted to Twombly's work for more than a quarter of a century.

In 1989, the museum acquired an important suite of 10 monumental Twombly paintings, Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), which directly allude to Alexander Pope's famous rendering of Homer.

The newly acquired sculptures relate to the Iliam suite and explore similar classical themes, Basualdo said.

The suite of paintings is considered by scholars to be a major example of Twombly's mature interest in not only Homer and the Trojan War but antiquity in general.

Twombly, it could be said, grew from classical roots that are pure America. His father pitched professionally for the Chicago White Sox, and both father and son were known as Cy - after the great pitcher Cy Young.

But from an early age, Twombly knew his interests lay in art, not baseball. He attended the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Washington and Lee University, the Art Students League in New York City, and the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina.

At Black Mountain, Twombly studied with Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, and Ben Shahn; met composer John Cage; and was mesmerized by the great poet Charles Olson.

Poetry had a continuous influence on Twombly's artwork, which often has a distinctly calligraphic quality to it and employs words and word fragments.

Basualdo said that the gift of the sculptures clearly deepens the connection between Philadelphia and "an artist whose influence and legacy are more than ever strong and alive."

As evidence of the artist's growing reputation and interest in his work, the museum is about to lend Fifty Days at Iliam for the first time - to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which is mounting a major Twombly career retrospective opening Nov. 30.

The Iliam suite will serve as anchor for one of the retrospective's three major sections.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, the five gifts of the Twombly Foundation will be placed on view Nov. 19 in galleries 184 and 185 in the museum's first-floor modern and contemporary wing.

On exhibit there, they will be united with another Twombly sculpture, a promised gift of Keith and Katherine Sachs, and two Twombly paintings from the recent bequest of the Daniel W. Dietrich II estate.

When the Iliam suite returns to the museum next spring, it will be installed with the sculptures and Dietrich bequest for at least several months, museum officials said.

ssalisbury@phillynews.com
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