Cy Twombly, a renowned abstract painter once slammed by critics, has died at 83 in Rome. No cause has been given, though the American artist had cancer, the New York Times reports. Twombly’s work, full of scribbles and scratches, at first earned him harsh words from art critics. But he largely ignored them and kept to himself, and by the 1990s was established as one of the top American abstract painters of the 20th century.
Twombly’s work rarely matched contemporary trends, writes Randy Kennedy in the Times. Much of his graffiti-like art was inspired by antiquity and literature, with words from poems scratched amid the paint. In the 1980s, younger painters began to take inspiration from Twombly and museums worldwide displayed his work. In 1989, a Twombly piece sold for more than $1 million for the first time at auction. When painting, “It’s more like I’m having an experience than making a picture,” Twombly said. Afterward, “I usually have to go to bed for a couple of days.”