Cy Twombly’s studio is in Lexington, Virginia, his original hometown. Though he now commutes between Lexington and Rome, and has spent a good deal of his life in Italy, he has never lost the drawl of a Southern gentleman. These photographs were taken on a glorious Spring day, a bit cool and foggy in the morning but clearing to reveal great expanses of green rolling hills. Lexington is horse country and the home of a famous military institute. Everywhere gorgeous cookie-cutter cadets in starched and pressed uniforms marched about with impeccable posture.
Cy’s father was an important political figure in this part of the country, and a high-school gymnasium is named after Twombly. We began our day with a quick visit to his simple white clapboard house, homey and comfortable at the end of a long drive. Then we went to the make shift studio–a warehouse that is about a five or ten minute ride from the house… When I asked Cy about the near absence of brushes he said, “Oh, I never use brushes.” What do you use?” I asked. And he answered, “Oh, rags, sticks… whatever I can get my hands on.”
The only photographs of Twombly I can remember seeing before his 1994 retrospective at MoMA were one by Horst, I believe from the 1960s, and one by Deborah Turbeville, from the 1970s. Or perhaps something else seen from very far away. Cy is the king of painters and the Garbo of the art world.
I had been trying to get him to sit down for a portrait since 1977, but he only wanted to be known by his work. But there are strong similarities between the man and the work: each was expansive, funny, spare, accessible, noble and discreet. Cy was never grand; he always stayed in the same modest Left Bank hotel in Paris, la Louisiane. Our lives often intertwined through mutual friends. In the 1970s, Cy was very close to a fellow Southerner then living in Paris, named William Burke. William had a gallery called La Remise du Parc with Samia Saouma, who was my mentor.
Cy often traveled with a beautiful and gentle Italian friend, Nicola del Roscio, and we once spent a memorable day in Paris together, walking across the Luxembourg gardens with Thomas Ammann. Rows of chestnut trees were in bloom, and we stopped at an antique fair in the Place St. Sulpice before ending up in Montparnasse. It was a carefree and idyllic day full of joy, surrounded by the beauty of Paris in early summer.
David Seidner, Artists at Work, 1999, pp. 136–139