One of the best things about a fairly recent visit to Munich, to do a reading at the behest of my German publisher, DTV, (and where, to my bemusement and delight, I was billed as “the Pope of British crime fiction”) was a visit to the Museum Brandhorst,where almost the entire top floor – some six rooms – is given over to the paintings and sculpture of Cy Twombly, who has died in Rome at the age of 83.
It wasn’t as though Twombly’s paintings had exactly been hidden from sight in recent years: the wonderful four-part Quattro Stagioni had been shown at Tate Modern in 2008 and then there were the dazzling and sumptuous canvasses depicting Roses at the Gagosian. Right now, his work is on display alongside that of Poussin at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Even so, being able to wander from room to room and gaze at these large works – the scale on which Twombly worked seemed to get bigger, and more deliberately beautiful – as he got older – was, I felt, a privilege.
In these days of so much dry, clever, soulless trivia, completely lacking in worthwhile subject matter, Twombly stood a towering hero. His mixture of intimacy and grandeur, force and delicacy, creates a sexy dynamism. He advanced the language of paint – from late Titian, through Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rothko and Pollock – and so takes his place among the elite. He is dead, but the courage of hsi work lives on.