As Robert Rauschenberg’s retrospective opened to rave reviews at Tate Modern last week, a group of his transfer drawings, including two once owned by Andy Warhol, went on show at London’s Offer Waterman gallery. It is the first time this body of work, created between 1958 and 1969, has been exhibited together in the UK. A selection is also on show in the Tate Modern exhibition.
Rauschenberg created hundreds of transfer drawings, which drew on the mass media of post-war America and were often highly political in content. The civil rights movement, the presidential election of 1968, wars in Vietnam and Algeria and man landing on the moon are among the events covered in the series. A total of 26 drawings are on display at Offer Waterman, 12 of which are for sale priced between $450,000 and $975,000.
The rest have been loaned by important private collections in the US, including ten drawings from the Sonnabend Collection Foundation in New York, which was established by the family of Ileana Sonnabend. The pioneering art dealer regularly showed Rauschenberg’s work at her Paris gallery in the 1960s, organising the influential exhibition, Rauschenberg: 25 Dessins, in 1968.
Rauschenberg’s transfer drawings mark a particularly innovative period in the Texas-born artist’s career, which led him to incorporate silkscreened photographic images into his paintings in 1962. There has been much debate as to whether it was Rauschenberg or Andy Warhol who first introduced the technique; Warhol’s earliest attempts at silkscreen printing also date back to his 1962 dollar bill paintings.
“Everyone thinks it was Warhol who first introduced silkscreen printing, but it could have been Rauschenberg,” the dealer Offer Waterman says. “Like Warhol, Rauschenberg was at the frontier of new things, which is the story this exhibition tells.” Robert Rauschenberg: Transfer Drawings from the 1950s and 1960s runs until 13 January.