In 1952 Cy Twombly (1928–2011) changed the focus of his European grand tour by making a side trip to North Africa. During his three-month stay in Morocco he engaged in activities such as assisting archeological excavations, making tapestries out of native textiles, and producing hundreds of sketches that he estimated were crucial for his later paintings. This article analyzes Twombly’s North African sketchbooks, a group of drawings in crayon and pencil on typewriter paper that was produced after the artist had returned to Rome and while he investigated African art and culture through the lens of the Western ethnographic museum. Focusing on the aesthetic and material effects of the sketchbooks, Twombly’s drawings will be discussed in regard to the objects he saw while traveling. How was the range of artifacts incorporated, transformed, and possibly even obliterated within his sketches? Relating Twombly’s studies to his own writings and retrospective commentaries, this article aims to show that Twombly’s attraction to African art corresponds to his exploration of the materiality of things, leading toward modes of mark making that would prove significant for his future production.

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