I love Cy Twombly. He is probably my favorite American artist. I bought this book because I wanted to show people who are not familiar with Cy Twombly what I think is so amazing about him, and also to have a portable reminder for myself (I currently live in Boston-- can't find a good Cy Twombly original in a museum around here to save my life).
I was hesitant to buy any Cy Twombly book at all, because such a huge part of his art is its sheer, overpowering size: How can you convey the essence of the Season Cycles (each portrait of which is many feet long and wide) in a book you can hold in your hands? But, whatever: I love Cy Twombly so much that even a postcard-sized reminder of him is worth paying good money for.
So that's why I bought the book. Here are my thoughts about it:
1) Why such small pictures?!!?! This is by far the biggest bone I have to pick with this book. I saw on Amazon that the book was pretty big-- 9.8 x 1 x 13.4 inches -- which I was happy with. I felt like that was a good enough size to do some justice to even Twombly's largest paintings. I didn't go through all the reviews before buying the book, but I remember a few reviewers positively commenting about the book's size. Good. I was sold.
I got the book in the mail and was, again, happy with its size. But then I opened it. Not happy! While every page in the book is roughly 24cm by 34 cm (815 square cm), every reproduction of a painting in the book is roughly 15cm by 21cm (315 square cm)! Why on earth is more than half of the page space on every page blank?? It is such a waste! It would be so easy to make every reproduction of the painting in the book, say, roughly 23cm by 32cm (736cm), and still have enough space for the basic descriptive text (it's only three lines: 1) Title, Year 2) Materials Used 3) Original Size). No? I hope I am betraying my ignorance here-- maybe there is some technical, printing-related reason why the reproductions can't take up more of the page space. If this is the case then I apologize for this misinformed criticism of the book, but on the surface this just seems like a mind-blowingly boneheaded editorial decision. Cy Twombly made a lot of really big paintings. That was sort of his thing, especially in certain parts of his career. Readers want to see faithful representations of Cy Twombly paintings: the bigger, the better. So why make them so small?? Why make the reproductions 315 square centimeters when you have room to make them 736 square centimeters?! It is just such a waste...
Besides the frustratingly small reproduction sizes, this book basically did everything I hoped it would.
2) Introductory essays: I really liked Simon Schama's essay (so much that so I am buying a few of his cultural histories). Roland Barthe's essay... not my cup of tea. Struck me as pretty annoying and bulls***-y. Although I could barely tolerate the first paragraph and stopped reading shortly afterwards, so maybe I am not doing it justice. Maybe it got really, really good after that first paragraph. In any case, whatever. One sensible, thought-provoking essay is more than I can ask for in an introduction to an art book. I was happy.
3) Quality of reproductions: high. Satisfying. So high that it made me wish the reproductions were BIGGER...
4) Choice of Twombly's work: satisfying. I thought it faithfully represented the different stages of his career, as I understand it. The pre-1970's stuff did not blow me away: I feel like I have seen better earlier Twombly stuff than that (for instance, in the London Tate Modern Cy Twombly exhibit in 2008). But it's Twombly. You can't go too wrong. 1970s and afterwards: awesome. Kudos.
Hats off to whoever made this book for points 2-4. Whoever was responsible for point 1... you're killing me! Such a needless and frustrating waste of page space!
Takeaway: this book gives a good idea of Cy Twombly's work. But it isn't really a 24cm by 34cm book, because it has so much blank space on every page. It is more of a 16cm by 24 cm book. This makes a big difference, because so much of the Cy Twombly experience is about size. I don't think this book is worth $60. If I had known how small the pictures were, I would have paid maybe $20 for the book, tops. That being said, any book that brings more Cy Twombly into the world is, all things considered, a very good thing.