Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
Property from a Distinguished East Coast Collection
Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)


Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)
signed and dated 'RAUSCHENBERG 73' (upper left)
solvent transfer, oil, gouache, ink, graphite, colored pencil, crayon, paper collage and tape on paper
59 ¼ x 24 in. (150.5 x 61 cm.)
Executed in 1973.
Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
James Mayor Gallery, London, 1976
Private collection, Pennsylvania
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 16 May 1980, lot 41
Waddington Galleries, London, 1987
Private collection, London
Jonathan O'Hara Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Lot Essay

Combining appropriated images with ones he created himself was a hallmark of Rauschenberg’s career. Executed in 1973, Untitled, 1973 was created on Captiva Island in Florida where the artist moved after leaving New York just a few years earlier. In this towering work, an L-shaped trail of tape divides the towering composition in two. The upper portion is filled with images that could easily have been included in earlier Rauschenberg works such as those space and forms of vehicular transport, while the lower section contains more painterly traces of the artist’s dynamic brushwork. Many of the images are created using process known as solvent transfer, a method borrowed from print making in which the image is transferred to the surface of the canvas by brushing a solvent solution onto the original source image and then pressing it onto the surface of the work, thus transferring the image in the process. This unique method became one of the artist’s signature techniques. In this particular work, some of the transfer images are clearly visible and legible, while others however are blurred and masked by layers of painterly activity. An image at the bottom of the sheet is simply pasted directly onto the support, emphasizing the contrast between the materials. The lower left portion of composition is dominated by white brushstrokes, interrupted by a transferred image of an apple in the middle. The center is left virtually unaltered as the raw paper support is only adulterated by a series of meandering crayon lines.

Although avowedly not an abstract expressionist, Untitled 1973, exhibits some of the expressive traits that could be associated to the latter movement. The jumbled assemblage of images takes on an expressive quality and the passages of white painterly activity evokes the spirit of Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning’s structural brushwork. This broad range of seemingly contradictory techniques could be said to show the influence of his teacher at the famous Black Mountain College, Josef Albers. Albers’ propensity for collaboration and free thinking clearly had an impact on the young Rauschenberg which manifests itself in the free-flowing of ideas and techniques that is evident across the surface of Untitled. Inspired in-part by Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades, Rauschenberg is considered to be one of the most important and influential artists of the post war era. He is regarded by many to a true ‘artist’s artist’ and was highly admired by both his contemporaries, and those who followed. Walter Hopps, the American curator and museum director, wrote that “Rauschenberg both paved the way for, and exerted a substantive influence on, subsequent art to a degree that rivals Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning” (W. Hopps, “Introduction: Rauschenberg’s Art of Fusion,” in Rauschenberg: a Retrospective, exh. cat., Solomon R, Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1997, p.20).

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