Cy Twombly. Morocco 1952-1953

At a time when the continent of Africa is garnering more and more global attention, a time when its diverse societies and cultures have become a source of fascination, we should remember that it has inspired numerous artists over the past centuries. Eugène Delacroix, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso are but a few of the many renowned “Western” artists who have drawn inspiration from the continent, either from direct exposure to various African cultures or through objects produced in Africa and exported to Europe.

It is with great honor that the Fondation Jardin Majorelle, in partnership with the Cy Twombly Foundation and the Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, mounts this extraordinary exhibition, Cy Twombly: Morocco 1952- 1953. Considered one of the greatest artists of the second half of the twentieth century, the influential American artist Cy Twombly, known for his fascination with the classical world of antiquity, was equally intrigued by the cultures of the Amazigh (Berber) tribes of Morocco.

In the fall of 1952, Cy Twombly receives a traveling scholarship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and leaves New York for his first trip to Europe and North Africa. He meets up with fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg in Casablanca in October 1952, and the two of them travel to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, and then to Tangier. They pay a visit to the writer Paul Bowles in Tétouan and go on day trips with him to nearby villages and Roman ruins. Twombly conducts his first and last archaeological excavation there. Upon their return to Rome in February 1953, Twombly studies and sketches African artifacts he sees at the Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini. These sketches survive in the form of the North African Sketchbooks. Much of the surviving work from this trip consists of photographs taken with a Rolleiflex shared by the artists and sketches preserved in the archives of the Cy Twombly Foundation and Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio; they provide a unique perspective on Twombly’s lesserknown affinity for Morocco. In the fall of 1953, shortly after their return to the US, Twombly, and Rauschenberg mounted a joint exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York City. Twombly’s contribution included seven or eight paintings, half of them titled after Moroccan towns: Volubilus, Tiznit, and Quarzazat.