Robert Rauschenberg, ‘Dietrich Draw’, 1966, Phillips

This work is registered in the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation archives under number 66.D010.

From the Catalogue:
Robert Rauschenberg’s Dietrich Draw is a stellar example of the artist’s renowned transfer drawings, the first of which was executed in 1952. In these works, Rauschenberg takes his characteristic technique of assemblage and applies it to a two-dimensional surface. Created by soaking printed images in a solvent, such as turpentine, and then transferring the image to paper with cross-hatching, the resulting compositions of the transfer drawings are an amalgamation of source imagery, all of which explore a series of nonlinear American narratives. As such, the resulting image exists somewhere outside of the categorizations of painting, drawing and printmaking, being neither entirely mechanized nor hand-produced. In fact, the 1960s marked a departure from the artist’s use of printed mass media imagery found in popular culture in favor of a focus on craft and found materials, a transition which was highlighted in his major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art this past summer. Dietrich Draw thus represents a unique combination of these two distinct influences, which Rauschenberg was drawing from at this pivotal time.

The present lot is so titled after the famed German American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich, who appears as a transferred image in the lower right quadrant of the composition. Dietrich was celebrated in the United States for her support of German and French exiles during World War ii, making her appearance in Rauschenberg’s solvent drawings particularly patriotic, and a tribute to an alternative American hero. Executed circa 1966, the work follows the year when Dietrich received the honorable Israeli Medallion of Valor, making her both the first woman and German to receive the honor. Highly characteristic of Rauschenberg’s most iconic transfer drawings, Dietrich’s ghostly portrait hovers amongst an array of symbols, including a sequence of numbers, text and abstract brushwork, making the present lot one of the artist’s most successful drawings from a critical period in his career.
Courtesy of Phillips

Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design (acquired from the above in 1967)
Private Collection
Thence by descent to the present owner

About Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg’s enthusiasm for popular culture and, with his contemporary Jasper Johns, his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to search for a new way of painting. A prolific innovator of techniques and mediums, he used unconventional art materials ranging from dirt and house paint to umbrellas and car tires. In the early 1950s, Rauschenberg was already gaining a reputation as the art world’s enfant terrible with works such as Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953), for which he requested a drawing (as well as permission) from Willem de Kooning, and proceeded to rub away the image until only ghostly marks remained on the paper. By 1954, Rauschenberg completed his first three-dimensional collage paintings—he called them Combines—in which he incorporated discarded materials and mundane objects to explore the intersection of art and life. “I think a picture is more like the real world when it’s made out of the real world,” he said. In 1964 he became the first American to win the International Grand Prize in Painting at the Venice Biennale. The 1/4 Mile or Two Furlong Piece (1981–98), a cumulative artwork, embodies his spirit of eclecticism, comprising a retrospective overview of his many discrete periods, including painting, fabric collage, sculptural components made from cardboard and scrap metal, as well as a variety of image transfer and printing methods.

American, 1925-2008, Port Arthur, Texas, based in New York and Captiva Island, Florida