Robert Rauschenberg, ‘Untitled’, 1961, Sotheby's: Contemporary Art Day Auction

From the Catalogue

"The transfer drawings have no ground plane or spatial orthogonals; the images float on the flat field, usually not overlapping. As John Cage observed, this gives them an indistinct quality, 'the outlines appear vague as in water or air (our feet are off the ground),' in other words, the spectator floats as well." — Lewis Kachur in “On Robert Rauschenberg’s Transfer Drawings of the 1960s,” in Exh. Cat., New York, Jonathan O’ Hara Gallery, Robert Rauschenberg: Transfer Drawings from the 1960s, 2007, p. 8


Our mother was an artist. She sculpted, painted, sketched, played the piano. As a dedicated art lover, nothing compared to her passion and respect for the talent of Robert Rauschenberg. Our father on the other hand was a man of physics, math and science. Their home was filled with Rauschenberg's work. She anticipated every Sotheby’s catalogue, where she would comb through leaving post it notes on pieces she hoped to acquire. Her Sanibel home was not far from Rauschenberg’s studio in Captiva, where they fostered a friendship that lasted until the end of his life.

—The Marks Family

Arcing from the artist’s nascent days at Black Mountain College in 1949 and touching upon almost every decade of production and exploration of unconventional materials and methods, James and Roslyn Marks assembled a collection of work by Robert Rauschenberg that is retrospective in scope and rich in art historical importance. Theirs is a collection forged first through friendship. The Marks’ Sanibel home was not far from Rauschenberg’s Captiva Island studio. Roslyn, known to friends as “Roz,” loved music as well as art; their mutual interests, proximity, and infectious personalities became the basis of a life-long relationship.

Beginning in the fall of 2016 and continuing through spring 2017, Sotheby’s is honored to present over a dozen works from the Marks Collection. Including examples from almost every period of Rauschenberg’s career – the collection reads almost like a survey of his inimitable and diversely multi-faceted artistic vernacular. The earliest work in the collection was completed in 1949, a fundamental year defined by his experience under the tutelage of Josef Albers at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina, and then in New York, amongst the freewheeling environment of the Arts Students League. Two seminal examples in the collection from the early 1960s demonstrate the artist’s pioneering practice using solvent transfer, a rudimentary print process that anticipated the mass-produced language of Pop that was shortly to follow. In 1967, his technical audacity was evidenced again in his collaboration with Gemini G.E.L. of the largest hand-pulled print to date, Booster, a skeletal self-portrait of the artist himself. In the early 1970s, Rauschenberg incorporated used cardboard boxes into his work in the Egyptian series and experimented with printing on translucent fabrics in the Hoarfrosts. Influenced by Rauschenberg’s extensive international travels in the 1980s and 1990s, his works from this period engage a global perspective and transform these sights into personal visual poetry. They also employ a powerful new technique combining dye transfer with novel supports including large-scale paper and polylaminate panels.

The diversity of media pursued in the collection is a testament to the artist’s desire to challenge traditional notions of painting and break down the barriers separating different art forms. The materials represented in the Marks group include brass, aluminum, silk, polylaminate, wax, newsprint, tape, enamel, oil, acrylic, paper, steel and canvas. The images that appear in conjunction with and on these materials were culled from newspapers, magazines, and found posters, but mostly the artist’s camera. Rauschenberg blends together the realistic and the abstract, uniting otherwise disparate worlds and adding narrative to the space between life and art. It was Rauschenberg’s desire to have an audience of the world, to create a corpus of work that celebrated communication, freedom, and peace. As an inveterate inventor, his materials became the tools with which he could harness the power in images to create a window out. “There is no reason,” Rauschenberg has said, “not to consider the world one giant painting.” Offered concurrent with Rauschenberg’s first retrospective since his death in 2008 - opening at the Tate Modern in London in December and then traveling to the Museum of Modern Art, New York and finally the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – the Marks Collection presents alongside as a capsule into the artist’s epic vision, technical ingenuity, and love for life, in all its beautiful and messy permutations.

Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: signed and dated 1961 on the reverse

Stockholm, Galerie Burén, Robert Rauschenberg: Combine Drawings, September 1964

Galerie Burén, Stockholm
Private Collection, Sweden (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, London, 24 June 1999, Lot 229 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above sale by 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