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American painter Cy Twombly dies aged 83

American painter Cy Twombly, renowned for his large-scale scribbled canvases, died in Rome on Tuesday. He was 83.
/ Source: Reuters

American painter Cy Twombly, renowned for his large-scale scribbled canvases, died in Rome on Tuesday. He was 83.

Gagosian Gallery, which represented the artist, did not give the cause of his death, although media reports said that he had suffered from cancer.

Italy's Ansa news agency said he had been hospitalized in Rome for a few days and had wanted to be buried in the city.

"The art world has lost a true genius and a completely original talent, and for those fortunate enough to have known him, a great human being," Larry Gagosian said in a statement.

"We will not soon see a talent of such amazing scope and intensity. Even though Cy might have been regarded as reclusive, he didn't retreat to an ivory tower. He was happy to remain connected and live in the present."

Gagosian added that Twombly, who divided critics throughout his life and often refused to fit in with the trends of the day, never lost his sense of humor and always remained humble.

He settled permanently in Italy in the late 1950s, even as the art world was heading in the opposite direction -- from Europe to New York -- a move the New York Times called "the most symbolic of his idiosyncrasies."

Twombly never had an easy ride with art experts, who questioned whether his calligraphic style and use of words and graffiti in paintings were worthy of a place at the high table of 20th century abstract art.

But the figure who shunned publicity was a star of the contemporary art world by the time of his death. Less than two months ago a Twombly work from 1967, "Untitled," sold for $15.2 million at Christie's in New York.

Only last year he was invited to paint the ceiling of the Salle des Bronzes at the Louvre in Paris, only the third contemporary artist to be given such an honor.

The resulting work was an abstract composition on a blue background complementing Georges Braque's ceiling in the adjoining gallery.

On it appeared the names of the most celebrated classical Greek sculptors of the fourth century, underlining Twombly's fascination for classical art and history.

Twombly was born in Lexington, Virginia, in 1928. He studied in a number of U.S. art colleges before traveling extensively in Europe. He served as a cryptologist in the U.S. military in the early 1950s.