Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters

Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Cy Twombly, “Hero and Leandro,” 1985.
202 x 254cm.*

June 29, 2011

Twombly and Poussin:
Arcadian Painters
29 June–25 September 2011

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road, London, SE21 7AD

“I would’ve liked to have been Poussin, if I’d had a choice, in another time.”
—Cy Twombly

Dulwich Picture Gallery is proud to announce a revelatory exhibition of the work of Cy Twombly and Nicolas Poussin. Organised to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Gallery, this major show will explore, for the first time, the unexpected yet numerous parallels and affinities between the two painters. The exhibition will draw upon the world-class permanent collection of works at Dulwich Picture Gallery by Nicolas Poussin, alongside other works from major collections around the world by both Poussin and Twombly.

In 1624 and 1957, the two artists, aged around thirty, moved to Rome. Nicolas Poussin and Cy Twombly subsequently spent the majority of their lives in the Eternal City, and went on to become the pre-eminent painters of their day. Rather than recent exhibitions that have sought to compare and contrast old masters with contemporary artists through surface visual appearances, this groundbreaking show will instead juxtapose works, which may seem radically disparate in terms of style, yet ones that share deep and timeless interests. Both Poussin and Twombly were artists of prodigious talent who found in the classical heritage of Rome a life-long subject. Both spent their lives studying, revivifying and making newly relevant for their own eras antiquity, ancient history, classical mythology, Renaissance painting, poetry and the imaginary, idealised realm of Arcadia.

Curated by Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of International Modern Art at Tate Modern, the exhibition examines how Twombly and Poussin, although separated by three centuries, nonetheless engaged with the same sources and will explore the overlapping subjects that the two artists have shared. It will consist of around thirty carefully-chosen paintings, drawings and sculptures, structured thematically around six sections devoted to key shared themes, from both artists’ early fascinations with Arcadia and the pastoral when they first moved to Rome, Anxiety and Theatricality, Venus and Eros, Apollo, Parnassus and Poetry, Pan and the Bacchanalia, through to the theme of The Four Seasons.

The exhibition will be accompanied by the British premiere of Tacita Dean’s new 16mm film portrait of Cy Twombly, Edwin Parker (2011). The film documents Twombly in his studio in Lexington, Virginia, and follows on from Dean’s series of filmed depictions of subjects such as the choreographer Merce Cunningham, the poet Michael Hamburger and the artist Mario Merz, where the inner life of the sitter is implied through their physical demeanour and surroundings.

Ian Dejardin, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery explains that the exhibition “fits in with a philosophy I have pursued here—that exhibitions can conduct a dialogue with the permanent collection. In the past Howard Hodgkin, Lucian Freud and Paula Rego have all hung their paintings within the collection, so Poussin and Twombly seemed like a natural extension of those experiments”.

Dr. Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters says: ‘I hope the exhibition will prove to be a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. Through it, we are invited to think through how meaning and subject-matter can be conveyed by abstraction as opposed to figuration, and how these two painters have reinvented timeless themes in strikingly divergent modes but equally beguiling manner.’

The exhibition has received enthusiastic support and loans from major private and public collections around the world, including The National Gallery and Tate in London, The Royal Collection, Windsor; The Duke of Devonshire; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; Museo del Prado, Madrid; The Brandhorst Museum, Munich and The Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition has been developed in close collaboration with Cy Twombly himself, and will include works that have never been exhibited before.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Dulwich Picture Gallery will be showing the five remaining paintings from Nicolas Poussin’s (1594–1665) first series of the Seven Sacraments: Confirmation, the Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Ordination and Marriage, painted between 1637 and 1642. This rare display of Poussin’s Sacraments also provides an occasion to consider two very special religious paintings by Poussin from Dulwich’s permanent collection: The Translation of Saint Rita of Cascia and The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt. These will be hung alongside Poussin’s masterpieces of religious painting—the first set of Sacraments for Cassiano del Pozzo, which have been generously lent by the Duke of Rutland’s Trustees, Belvoir Castle, Grantham.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a scholarly and beautifully illustrated catalogue with essays and catalogue entries by Dr. Nicholas Cullinan; Dr. Xavier F. Salomon (Curator of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Dr. Katharina Schmidt (former Director of the Kunstmuseum Basel).


Curator’s Lecture
Thurs 30 June, 12.30–1.30pm
Curator, Dr. Nicholas Cullinan discusses the exhibition.
No pre-booking required. Free entry on a first come, first served basis.

In conversation with Sir Nicholas Serota and Dr Nicholas Cullinan
19 July, 6.30–8pm
Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, talks to Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of International Modern Art at Tate Modern and of the exhibition Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters about his long involvement curating Cy Twombly’s work and the exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Free Entry. Tickets must be pre-booked: 020 8299 8750 / Monday–Friday, 10am–12pm

In conversation with Malcolm Bull and TJ Clark
1 September, 6.30–8pm
Malcolm Bull (Ruskin School of Drawing, University of Oxford) and T. J. Clark (Professor Emeritus of Modern Art at the University of California, Berkeley; and Visiting Professor, University of York) will discuss the work of Poussin and Twombly and the themes raised by the exhibition from their different perspectives.
Free Entry. Tickets must be pre-booked: 020 8299 8750 / Monday–Friday, 10am–12pm

Late Night Viewing:
22 September, 5–9pm
Book tickets online at

*Image above:
Private Collection.
Courtesy Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich.
© Cy Twombly.

Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters
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Dulwich Picture Gallery
June 29, 2011

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