In the summer of 1977, Cy Twombly began working on a "painting in ten parts" based on Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad. Completed in 1978 and collectively titled Fifty Days at Iliam, the works evoke incidents from Homer's epic poem in Twombly's characteristic synthesis of words and images. The ten large canvases follow one another much like a developing narrative. They are ordered as follows: Shield of Achilles; Heroes of the Achaeans; Vengeance of Achilles; Achaeans in Battle; The Fire that Consumes All Before It; Shades of Achilles, Patroclus, and Hector; House of Priam; Ilians in Battle; Shades of Eternal Night; Heroes of the Ilians.
Emerging in the mid-twentieth century, Cy Twombly (American, 1928–2011) developed a signature style that merged the gestural vigor of Abstract Expressionism with poetic allusions to classical art and literature. At first glance, his large-scale canvases appear to be primordial in their scrawls and marks, yet closer inspection reveals the dense reworking of motifs, words, and gestures that make up Twombly’s intensively crafted paintings. Twombly sought to combine the long tradition of classical storytelling with the visually emotive energy of his time, in a series of works that exude vitality and dynamism while recalling the protean and the epic.
Twombly’s sculptures continue his exploration of abstraction and narrative. Made from casting a wide assortment of found objects, his bronze sculptures remain unvarnished and unrefined so that their surfaces bear the traces of their making. Evoking chariots, totems, gravestones, shields, or even natural forms like the setting sun, these sculptures look as if newly excavated from an unknown archeological site. Like his paintings, they elide the past and present, interrogating the nature of history and time.
Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art