Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters
29 June – 25 September 2011
The American painter Cy Twombly died in Rome on Tuesday 5 July 2011. He was 83. The Italian news agency Ansa said that the artist was hospitalised in Rome and had expressed his desire to be buried in the city.He once said: 'I would've liked to have been Poussin, if I'd had a choice, in another time.'This exhibition, which opened six days before Twombly's death, brings together the work of Twombly and Poussin for the first time. They were artists for whom Rome and its artistic traditions were a crucial source of influence and inspiration, and who both had a fascination for mythology, for Arcadian landscapes and the pastoral.Organised thematically, the exhibition sets the artists in dialogue with one another, their depictions of mythological figures " Flora, Orpheus, Narcissus, Pan " creating a common starting point.The comparative journey culminates in the late, great works of both Twombly and Poussin on the theme of the four seasons.
Poussin returned four times during his life to Tasso's poem Rinaldo, which describes the Christian knight and his abduction by pagan sorceress Armida. The works form a sequence, following the story from beginning to end, but are very much self-contained in terms of style. The gallery's own Rinaldo and Armida (c1630) is the earliest, and shows the sorceress about to slay the sleeping knight but captivated by his beauty.Twombly's cycle of paintings Quattro Stagioni (Four Seasons) celebrates the character of each of the seasons in turn. His typically athletic use of paint saw it variously dripped onto the canvas, smeared on with bare hands, applied in a light wash and encrusted to form a textured surface.Each season is characterised by its own palette of colours, the acid yellow of summer giving way to the ripe purples and deep greens of autumn. Each painting also includes text, scrawled and meandering over the canvas, adding a further sensory dimension.