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2011 | 10-11 | 151-164

Article title

Cy Twombly: Leda and the Swan, 1962



Title variants

Cy Twombly , Leda z łabędziem, 1962

Languages of publication



The present analysis of one of Cy Twombly's works has been preceded with an overview of critical opinions on the art of the American abstract painter and sculptor who sińce the 1950s has been based in the Eternal City. The views of Herner Bastian, Roland Barthes and Barbara Rose were enhanced by the critical opinions of art critics and journalists voiced in the discussion that aroused after the artist's retrospective exhibition Cycles and Seasons, on show in the London Tate Modern from June to September 2008. The subject of the present paper is the Leda and the Swan (1962), and the main focus of the article is the formal analysis of the painting done by the artist who in the 1950s had chosen an alternative artistic path: on the one hand, to a lesser degree directed by the pnnciple of accident, and on the other, more balanced than the American abstraction with its then dominant role of action painting. A careful examination of the painting's composition, its texture, format, line patterns, colour scheme and gradation of colour hues, as well as the variety of techniąues employed by the artist, was combined here with an attempt at interpreting the contents inscribed in the work in ąuestion. Just like other of Twombly's works, this painting is enigmatic and ambiguous. The contextual analysis of the painting revealed elements deeply rooted in tradition, which the artist employed while creating contemporary works of art. Further, the examination showed the Twombly's interest in European and Far Eastern cultures, an interest bordering on fascination, a feature characteristic for the artist. The specific aura of the painting created under the sign of Eros is the result of employing delicate colours, lines and the calligraphed text inscribed in the composition. This multiplicity and variety of different elements biur the borders between image, sign, notion and word. The ancient myth, which underlies the "painted" narrative, was shown here as an important interpretative context, and allowed for employing anthropological perspective when looking at the artwork emanating with sensuality. By emphasising the intimate contact of the artist-medium with his work in which the mythical story is seen anew from the angle of Goethe's Faust or the "voyeuristic" projects, the Leda and the Swan can be interpreted as a text of culture written in a specific "language" of internal speech, which denotes the proximity of feelings of the author of the painting with those of its beholder. 164






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