Cy Twombly often inscribed on paintings the names of mythological figures during the 1960s. Twombly’s move to Gaeta in Southern Italy in 1957 gave him closer contact with classical sources. From 1962 he produced a cycle of works based on myths including Leda and the Swan and The Birth of Venus; myths were frequent themes of Twombly’s 1960s work. Between 1960 and 1963 Twombly painted the rape of Leda by the god Zeus/Jupiter in the form of a Swan six times, once in 1960, twice in 1962 and three times in 1963.
Pseudo-mathematical equations, hasty doodles, compendiums of graph paper, finger-painting, splotching and erasing (always erasing)–anything Mr. Twombly puts his hand to is reliable in its insouciance and consummately superficial. He can be pretentious, too: In a suite of drawings from the mid-1970′s, Mr. Twombly lists the names of mythical figures (Venus, Apollo, Pan and the like) as if an array of artful scrawls could somehow embody one of humankind’s grander fictions.
Together with Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Twombly is regarded as the most important representative of a generation of artists who distanced themselves from Abstract Expressionism.