Cy Twombly, ‘Fifty Days at Iliam’, 1978, Philadelphia Museum of Art

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 (on view in Gallery 184); 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 (on view in Gallery 185).

Gift (by exchange) of Samuel S. White 3rd and Vera White, 1989

About Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly emerged in the 1950s, developing a characteristic painting style of expressive drips and active, scribbled, and scratched lines. “My line is childlike but not childish,” he once said. “It is very difficult to fake…to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child's line. It has to be felt.” Early influences included Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell, but more formative would be his relationships with Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, along with whom he would distance himself from the dominance of Abstract Expressionism. Twombly's work also appeared in one of the first exhibitions to explore ideas of Minimalism—“Black, White, and Grey” (1964)—along with Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol. In addition to his paintings, which were sometimes dismissed as "high-art graffiti," he produced sculptures assembled from found objects, clay, and plaster, painted white to suggest an affinity to Classicism.

American, 1928-2011, Lexington, Virginia, based in New York and Rome