Robert Rauschenberg (American, Port Arthur, Texas 1925–2008 Captiva Island, Florida)
Combine painting: oil, paper, fabric, wood, metal, sandpaper, tape, printed paper, printed reproductions, handheld bellows, and found painting, on two canvases, with ladder
H. 90-1/2 x W. 59-1/2 x D. 4 in. (229.9x 151.1 x 10.2 cm)
Gift of Steven and Alexandra Cohen, and Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, Bequest of Gioconda King, by exchange, Anonymous Gift and Gift of Sylvia de Cuevas, by exchange, Janet Lee Kadesky Ruttenberg Fund, in memory of William S. Lieberman, Mayer Fund, Norman M. Leff Bequest, and George A. Hearn and Kathryn E. Hurd Funds, 2005
Winter Pool, the first painting by Rauschenberg to enter the Museum's collection, is a prime example of a very important period in this highly inventive and influential artist's work—the mid-1950s to the early 1960s—when he created bold objects that were a hybrid of painting and sculpture and a reinvention of collage. He called them Combines. In Cubist collage, pasted papers add up to a readable image, such as a still life. With Combines, there is no narrative and the interpretation is left to the viewer.
The work, in exceptionally fresh condition, consists of two separate canvases, each about the height of a man. A wooden ladder bridges the gap between them, and its legs extend to the floor, inviting the viewer to climb into the picture. The compositions of both canvases consist of syncopated grids formed by rectangles of paint and found objects: shirt cuffs, a handkerchief, poster letters, and photographic reproductions. Rauschenberg's virtuoso handling of paint both exploits and confronts the dominant painterly style of the early 1950s—Abstract Expressionism—and undermines the Renaissance notion that a painting shows an ideal world behind the canvas surface.
[Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, until 1960; sold on June 6, 1960 to Panza]; Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Milan (1960–63; sold on May 22, 1963, through Leo Castelli, to Ganz); Victor and Sally Ganz (1963–88; their sale, Sotheby's, New York, November 10, 1988, no. 8, sold to Brant); Mr. and Mrs. Peter M. Brant, Greenwich, Conn. (from 1988); David Geffen (by 1997–2005; sold in November 2005, through Gagosian Gallery, New York, to Cohen and MMA); Steven and Alexandra Cohen, Greenwich, Conn. (2005–12, jointly with MMA; their gift to MMA)
New York. Leo Castelli Gallery. "Robert Rauschenberg," March 29–April 16, 1960, no catalogue.
Moderna Museet, Stockholm. "4 Amerikanare: Jasper Johns, Alfred Leslie, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Stankiewicz," March 17–May 6, 1962, no. 33.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "4 Amerikanare: Jasper Johns, Alfred Leslie, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Stankiewicz," May 18–June 18, 1962, no. 33.
The Jewish Museum, New York. "Robert Rauschenberg," March 31–May 12, 1963, no. 28.
Venice. United States Pavilion. "XXXII International Biennial Exhibition of Art: Four Younger Artists," June 20–October 18, 1964, no. 28.
Providence, R. I. Annmary Brown Memorial, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design and Providence Arts Club. "Critics' Choice: Art Since World War II. 1965 Kane Memorial Exhibition in Honor of Brown University," March 31–April 24, 1965, no. 61 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Victor Ganz).
Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Robert Rauschenberg: Paintings 1953–1964," May 3–June 6, 1965, no. 10.
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Robert Rauschenberg," February 23–April 7, 1968, no. 15.