Cy Twombly photographed in Rome by Horst P. Horst in 1966 Cy Twombly photographed in Rome by Horst P. Horst in 1966

Twombly spent a great part of his life working in Italy. As an artist during the 1950s, he captured the European artistic rebuild that occurred post World War II. His works greatly differing from his American contemporaries such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, who worked in New York.

At first glance, it is hard to see that Twombly's work was inspired by Greek and Roman history, but look again and the influence of contemporary graffiti on ancient local walls is evident.

Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan, 1962Image: MoMA Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan, 1962
Image: MoMA

One of the most important works from Twombly's oeuvre is Leda and the Swan, 1962. It encompasses the artist's influence of story-telling and mythology of the past, in this case the Roman myth of Jupiter being transformed into a swan and seducing Leda, who later gives birth to Helen of Troy. Typically, this myth would be represented with erotically charged imagery, but instead Twombly evokes a sense of violence, creating themes of opposition such as male and female, creativity and destruction.

pblot.php-12 Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
signed and dated 'Cy Twombly 1970' (on the reverse)
oil based house paint and wax crayon on canvas
61 1/4 x 74 3/4 in. (155.5 x 190 cm.)
Executed in 1970.

In 2014 at Christie's, New York, a record was set for Twombly as his untitled work from 1970 sold for £53 700 000 against an estimate of £27 000 000 – 42 500 000. Check out more realised prices for Cy Twombly here.

The piece is from Twombly's group of grey-ground works he created from 1966 to 1972 which recreated blackboards covered in chalk handwriting. The idea behind these works is to capture the handwriting practices taken by children at school. Twombly's method, although in theory the same as these handwriting exercises, creates scrawls instead of actual words.

Check out works by Cy Twombly on sale on Barnebys now.