Cy Twombly: Fifty Days at Iliam

“And we who have always thought of happiness climbing,
would feel the emotion that almost startles when happiness falls.”
Cy Twombly

Twombly stipulated the spatial configuration of the ten large canvases in a presentation that was sequential as well as logical thematically. An antechamber contains the emblematic painting Shield of Achilles, the armor made for the Greek warrior by the gods, with energy forces drawn from the four corners of the universe. Nine paintings in the adjoining gallery present the chronological unfolding of the story, progressing from the scene of Achilles pivotal decision to join the fight against Troy (Iliam) to an almost blank canvas imbued with the silence of death. Twombly designed the installation so that the four paintings on one side of the room present a predominantly Greek mood, passionate and explosive, while the four across from them embody the Trojan character, contemplative and cool. Presiding over the gallery from the far wall is the monumental Shades of Achilles, Patroclus, and Hector, an elegiac salute to the three fallen heroes of the war.

Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 133.

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