UNTITLED (BACCHUS)

Cy Twombly (1928–2011)  

2008

Acrylic paint on canvas, 317,5 x 468,3 cm

Tate Modern, London

 

 

 

Lauded as one of the most significant painters of the second half of the 20th century, “Twombly combines American abstract expressionist heritage with the origins of Mediterranean culture” (source: Centre Pompidou). This work belongs to the Bacchus series, created in Gaeta (Italy) in Winter 2005. This acrylic painting is owned by the Tate Modern: “The London institution inherited a collection of eight paintings and sculptures from the American artist in 2014, three years after his death; the bequest included three large canvases produced by the artist at the end of his life, part of the Untitled (Bacchus) series (2006-2008). Bacchus is a recurrent figure in Twombly’s work. The artist was influenced by post-War abstract expressionism and Classical and poetic themes. In Summer 2005, he immersed himself once again in Homer’s Iliad and created a cycle of eight paintings in red, color of wine and blood, to evoke the ecstasy and madness of the Roman god, treading the line between carnal pleasure and violent debauchery in his unique calligraphic style” (source: Le Monde).

 

The paintings bear witness to the ‘creative drunkenness’ which can overcome artists. As has often been observed, one can draw parallels between the delirium of the creative process and that experienced by followers of Dionysus during group rituals. He makes free with the red paint that reminds us so much of blood and wine. Even if Cy Twombly makes no explicit reference to such themes, doesn’t this image bring to mind the Mystical Winepress, in which Christ is crushed like a grape, his blood and the blood of the grapes running together as one?