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    Description

    Cy Twombly (1928-2011)
    Portrait of Henry Heymann, 1956
    Oil and graphite on canvas
    45 x 33 inches (114.3 x 83.8 cm)

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Henry Heymann, present owner, acquired from the above in 1956.

    EXHIBITED:
    Washington and Lee University, Lexington City, Virginia, 2017.

    NOTE:
    This work is accompanied by a letter to Henry Heymann from the artist.

    The story of Cy Twombly and Henry Heymann starts in 1955 in Lexington, Virginia. A young art teacher at Southern Seminary Women's College, Twombly had studied at the Black Mountain School alongside Robert Rauschenberg and was poised to become an prominent painter in Leo Castelli's stable. Heymann was a bright Washington and Lee University undergraduate destined for Yale Drama School, a career launch as the set designer for the fledgling Santa Fe Opera, and the set manager for Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft's opera troupe on tour through Europe.

    The bond between Twombly and Heymann was instantaneous, inevitable, and lasted for years. Both men grew up in insular Southern communities. Twombly's father, an athletic coach at Washington and Lee, had his family live near the campus in Lexington, Virginia. Heymann, the beloved only child of a New Orleans mercantile family, attended the Isadore Newman School and apprenticed with artist George Dureau before heading off to Virginia. Both men were encouraged by their families to pursue artistic careers beyond Lexington and New Orleans. New York City was an obvious destination. Twombly had established his name there. Heymann aspired to do the same.

    This portrait, with sensitive facial details such as an expressive mouth and soulful eyes that engage the viewer, leaves no doubt about Twombly's mastery of naturalistic drawing. Beyond the face, the sitter's body deconstructs from classically modeled form in the torso to exuberant and gestural marks at the extremities. While the portrait certainly looks like young Henry Heymann, the painting is actually about Twombly's brush on the canvas.

    Possible precedents for this portrait are notable. Willem de Kooning's portrait of his wife, Elaine de Kooning, (c. 1940) and Arshile Gorky's portrait of this mother (c. 1942) famously explore the tension between the creation of a life-like rendering and the existential act of making a mark on paper or canvas. Like Gorky and de Kooning before him, Twombly used the face and body of an intimate as a starting point for his own exploration of the act of painting.

    Executed in 1956, this portrait sits at a pivotal moment in Twombly's personal life, as well as in his artistic evolution. The following year, Twombly married Italian Baroness Tatiana Franchetti and moved to Rome, where he fully developed his signature sgraffito style. Included with this lot is a 1958 letter in Twombly's distinctive hand to Heymann in New Orleans:

    Dear Henry, How are you and what are you doing? I'm in the hospital a few weeks so have no need for a fun letter. I hope you are at Yale and doing many things. Do write me and send your address. Tell me of Glen, etc. I have a show here the first of next month. Have been in Rome a year with a large flat overlooking the Coliseum. Want to go to Greece this summer. Do you think you might come over? Will not likely go to the States in Sept. Fondly, Cy

    Indeed, Heymann did visit Twombly at the flat in Rome several times and kept this portrait dear until its auction offering now.


    Condition Report*: Later stretcher; surface grime with light overall discoloration; minor framewear; minor craquelure with thin abrasions near the top of the head, shoulders, and left elbow; faint stretcher bar marks; one approximate 1 x 1 inch area of cupping to the lower left edge; tear to the lower left corner's edge, most noticeable when the work is not framed. Framed Dimensions 46 X 33.75 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2017
    30th Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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