Cy Twombly review – blood-soaked coronation for a misunderstood master

By Jonathan Jones

Centre Pompidou, Paris
The first retrospective since the US artist's death in 2011 celebrates a man pushing sex and death into a gory new space for art

Cy Twombly, an artist who was born in Lexington, Virginia in 1928 and moved to Italy in the 1950s, is in many ways very French. In the Salle des Bronzes Antiques at the Louvre museum in Paris, where ancient Greek armour waits silently for wars that will never come again, the room's vast ceiling is painted by Twombly with a bright expanse of blue, its intensity illuminated by silver and gold suns and moons as if the light of the Mediterranean were infusing the museum with desire and danger.

For Twombly, the bronze helmets preserved in this gallery would not just have been archaeological remains from which the past might be understood but instruments of passion, relics of love. Twombly's art is about sex, death and longing. History and myth enabled him to speak of these private things on a grand scale, to project his emotions across the most grandiose of canvases.

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