Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925)
Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925)

Complete Relaxation

Robert Rauschenberg (b. 1925)
Complete Relaxation
signed and dated 'ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG 1958' (on the reverse)
solvent transfer, graphite, gesso, ink and black crayon on paper
22¾ x 28¾ in. (57.8 x 73 cm.)
Executed in 1958.
Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 10 November 1993, lot 128A
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner


Complete Relaxation is one of the first transfer drawings that Rauschenberg made. Rauschenberg is interested in transferring imagery and objects from real life onto the picture plain, an interest common to both his Combines and the transfer drawings.

"The artist cut out printed matter, photographic images or texts which caught his eye, and soaked them in solvent first using turpentine, later lighter fluid. Then he placed the wet paper face down on a sheet of white paper, wherever he wanted it in a composition, and hatched its back with a dry pen nib. The pressure of this rubbing transferred the inks from the image or words onto the receptor sheet. The "appropriated" image is 1:1 in terms of scale but reversed from left to right, as it would be in a plate print. There is a margin of indeterminacy built in. The artist does not see the exact image positioned until the transfer is made, by which time it is too late to make changes, no repositioning is possible.

Transfer drawing is a unique technique that lies between monotype and collage: monotype, in that a single reversed image is "imprinted", and collage, in that there is a "cut and paste" concept in play, except without any actual glue. Rauschenberg spoke of it in these terms: "I felt I had to find a way to use collage in drawing, to incorporate my own way of working on that intimate scale". There is also a mass culture aspect to the technique, in that transfer drawing mimics the process of decals and stickers for children." (Jonathan O'Hara Gallery (ed.).